Bittersweet memoir of a highly stressed marriage that somehow endured for nearly half a century.
Freelance editor and writer Brady (A Yankee Christmas: Feasts, Treats, Crafts, and Traditions of Wintertime New England, 1992, etc.) is the widow of Upton Brady, for many years the editor in chief of the Atlantic Monthly Press. Her story of their marriage opens with the scattering of his ashes near Woods Hole, Mass., in 2008, and promptly reveals that Upton was sometimes a mean drunk. In chapters that shift back and forth between the present and the past, Brady tells the story of their relationship beginning in 1956, when she was a Boston debutante and he a Harvard undergraduate. Although his Irish Catholic background did not match her mother’s vision of a son-in-law, they were married in 1962 and swiftly produced four children. Marriage and fathering children, it seems, was viewed by Upton as a cure for homosexuality. It was not. Although he had sex with men, was a heavy drinker, was verbally and physically abusive and was financially unstable and secretive, Brady loved him and stuck with him, believing he loved her too. Her discovery, shortly after his death, of gay pornography hidden among his effects led her to question that belief. This memoir is her attempt to examine their past and to discover who her husband really was. It is clear that she adored him, saw him as brilliant and talented and for a long time blamed herself for his failings. Because she is looking back at her husband and their long marriage with present-day eyes, it is not always clear what she knew and what she refused to know when she was younger and living through some truly trying, eye-opening experiences. Her conclusion is that her beloved, deeply troubled husband lived two lives: the domestic world with her, and the gay world that he tried desperately to keep secret.
The marriage candidly portrayed here, with all its joys and failures, misunderstandings and misery, provides ample fodder for discussion in women’s book groups.