Friday, January 16, 2015

The Literature of Caregiving: A Happy Marriage by Raphael Yglesias

I’m a writer and a reader, yes. But sometimes I feel so amazed and wondrous at finding a story in fiction that is so perfect for my life.

Years ago I discovered “A Happy Marriage” by fortuitous accident. We were leaving on our honeymoon; I needed a book for the flight to Paris. I grabbed a new paperback from the shelf at my local bookstore. The title seemed perfect: “A Happy Marriage”. Almost themed for us and for me. Strangely it turned out—almost too perfect.

Yes. “A Happy Marriage” by Rafael Yglesias. It was his fifth novel. He also wrote “Fearless” which is one of my favorite movies—which also has a changing marriage as its theme. But in this book, the “happy marriage” is a stunning tale of cancer and caregiving and marriage and mystery.

“A Happy Marriage” is, to a degree, based on Yglesias’ own marriage. The courtship, love affair, struggles, rejuvenation by cancer and finally devastation—all in love—happened to Yglesias when he cared for his wife who died of cancer. But he is a great fiction writer and he used those life experiences to expand on and pull out and push in layers of ideas about marriage and illness.

This novel is perfect in CancerLand. Do not let the fact of a death by cancer scare you away. If cancer is a partner in your relationship you already know there are gifts from that player.

And Yglesias adds perspective and intensity of language, and he is a detective looking at what is love and what is marriage and what are cancer’s contributions.

This is also an important book in the Literature of Caregiving canon because we are presented with a male caregiver, and a story of rich, imperfect people. So, again, this is no saccharine made-for-TV-movie cancer story. It’s a book that any book club will debate late into the night and the couple will, long after the book is back on your shelf, feel like great friends you once knew and admired.

The imperfection of both husband and wife, patient and caregiver give this book extraordinary reach.

I’ll return in a few weeks with another entry for our new virtual book club: The Literature of Caregiving. I’d love to have your feedback and your suggestions too. Please share your thoughts here or email me anytime.

[You can see the first post for Literature of Caregiving --Marilynne Robinson's "Home" on this blog on Monday, December 8th.]

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