Reviewed by Jaylynn Korrell
A passionate story about two characters traversing the growing pains of marriage
Margarita Barresi dives deep into the intricacies of long-term relationships and into Puerto Rico’s political past in A Delicate Marriage. Set in the late 1920s to early 1950s, this story follows the lives of Marco and Isabela as they grow from young adults with big dreams to mature adults with a passion for change.
Coming from much different backgrounds, Isabela enjoys the perks of growing up in a well-off family, while Marco works tirelessly to study and better his situation. After they meet by chance, the two begin to enjoy each other’s company on the weekends, much to the disdain of Isabela’s father.
With big dreams of moving to Mexico to become an actress, Isabela is surprised to find her entire worldview shifting the more she spends time with Marco. When a hurricane hits, it changes the lives of Marco and Isabela forever. What used to matter to her seems unimportant when compared to the pain and suffering that so many Puerto Ricans are experiencing each day.
Inspired by Marco’s goals of changing their country for the better, Isabela decides to abandon her acting dreams and the two decide to take a leap of faith in the future and each other. But like many fanciful dreams, the reality of their situation ends up being something quite different than they imagined.
A Delicate Marriage does an excellent job of dissecting the way that marriage changes people, as does time and a difference of opinion. Marco’s goals and aspirations shift as he escapes a life in poverty, and Isabela finds new passions as she takes on more standard wifely duties. These pressures and stressors build a new life for the couple and bury their foundation so deep that soon they don’t recognize who they used to be. But there are pleasures and pains that come from weathering a marital storm.
Barresi expertly weaves captivating details of Puerto Rican history into this gripping love story. With compelling descriptions of food, natural landscapes, and heartwarmingly human stories, Barresi paints a vivid picture of mid-1900s Puerto Rico. The relationship between Marco and Isabela will be enough to keep you entertained, but their passion for their country and its people are what really make them come to life. That, and the stark contrasts between the two main characters.
Marco’s upbringing and commitment to change starts out as an inspiring journey that readers will root for, and Isabela’s ability to open her eyes when faced with the truth of her surroundings is a big relief. I enjoyed the way that Barresi developed the characters through both age and experience and paired them up at a perfect time when their ideas were most similar. It’s a great representation of the spark that ignites young love as two people meet at the perfect time of compatibility. The more that Isabela sees of the poorer areas of Puerto Rico, the more driven she is to help them. All the while, Marco is experiencing his first real break from a life of poverty and the further he gets from it, the more space he ultimately wants from his past. He is given a full backstory that hits even stronger when you see how both of their lives end up playing out.
A Delicate Marriage encompasses so much—a rapidly changing political climate, the changes associated with chasing money and then chasing more, children, sex, and the pressures from family. It’s a deeply passionate story in a way that only a tribute to your homeland can be. I read this book with gusto and learned quite a few things along the way. I recommend that you do too.
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