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The Pleasure Was Mineby Tommy Hays
Synopses & Reviews
Prate Marshbanks proposed to his future wife on a muggy July night at Pete's Drive-in back in '52. "She said yes to me between bites of a slaw burger all-the-way." A college graduate and daughter of a prominent lawyer, Irene was an unlikely match for Prate, a high school dropout. He lived his married life aware of the question on people's minds: How in the world did a tall, thin, fair-skinned beauty and one of the most respected high school English teachers in all of Greenville County, in all of South Carolina for that matter, wind up married to a short, dark, fat-faced, jug-eared house painter? That their marriage not only survived for fifty years, but flourished, is a source of constant wonder to Prate. Now he faces a new challenge with Irene.
From the author of In The Family Way, a novel the Atlanta Constitution called "an instant classic" and the Charlotte Observer praised as "a lovely, moving book," comes a powerful story of hard-earned hope. The Pleasure Was Mine takes place during a critical summer in the life of Prate Marshbanks, when he retires to care for his wife, who is gradually slipping away. To complicate things, Prate's son, Newell, a recently widowed single father, asks Prate to keep nine-year-old Jackson for the summer. Though Prate is irritated by the presence of his moody grandson, during the summer Jackson helps tend his grandmother, and grandfather and grandson form a bond. As Irene's memory fades, Prate, a hardworking man who has kept to himself most of his life, has little choice but to get to know his family.
With elegance and skillful economy of language, Tommy Hays renders an unforgettable character in Prate Marshbanks. The Pleasure Was Mine is at once a quietly wrenching portrayal of grief, a magical and romantic story about the power of love, and an unexpectedly moving take on the resilience of family.
"'My wife has gone. I can't say that I blame her. ... She had probably had enough of my temper, my dark moods, my foul mouth, my all-around disagreeable self. ... She had probably had enough of what most everybody wondered and some, over the years, were rude enough to ask: How in the world did a tall, thin, fair-skinned beauty and one of the most respected high school English teachers ... in all of South Carolina ... wind up married to a short, dark, fat-faced, jug-eared house painter?' That pithy summary sounds like the prelude to a typical novel about divorce and infidelity, but for Hays it serves as a setup for the transformation of a family in which an older man cares for his wife during her descent into Alzheimer's. The transformation begins when Prate Marshbanks, the remarkable, curmudgeonly protagonist, gets a visitor for the summer: his nine-year-old grandson, Jackson, whose mother died in a car accident several years before. But, despite Jackson's grieving presence, Marshbanks remains preoccupied with his own battle to ensure compassionate care for his wife, whom he has had to place in a nursing home. Hays's elegiac, penetrating description of Prate's marriage frames the landscape of this brilliant novel about love, loss, marriage and family. He offers a grim but hopeful treatment of a difficult subject, and his elegant writing and sharp, tender portraits of the Marshbanks make a potent combination." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Once in a blessed while, in this era of edgy, postmodern fiction, you come across a novel that is old-fashioned in the best sense." Charlotte Observer
"[A] folksy, heartfelt paean to the deep love of a long marriage." The Orlando Sentinel
"Most notable of all is the love with which Hays weaves his tale. Many of his characters create art to find affirmation of life in the face of devastating pain. Hays, who has lost a loved one to Alzheimer's himself, has surely done the same with this lovely novel." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"Colloquial in tone, braced by its narrator's stoic, plainspoken candor, Hays's latest outing feels timely and true. An intimate, loving portrait of a dreaded disease's devastating effects." Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Tommy Hays is executive director of the Great Smokies Writing Program at the University of North Carolina at Asheville and creative writing chair for the Academy at the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities. His novel In The Family Way received the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award in 2000 and was a choice of the Book-of-the-Month Club. He is a graduate of Furman University and the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina, with his wife and two children.
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