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A Box of Darkness

The Story of a Marriage

Sally Ryder Brady

St. Martin's Press

In the tradition of Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, comes a poignant memoir about a marriage that was as deep and strong as it was mysterious and complex

Upton and Sally Brady were a rare breed: cultivated and elegant, they lived a life of literary glamour and high expectations. Sally a debutante; Upton a classics major from Harvard, they met at the Boston Cotillion. He was articulate, witty, and worldly, and he danced like Fred Astaire. How could she resist? Despite raising four children on Upton’s modest wage as the editor-in-chief of the Atlantic Monthly Press, theirs was a world of champagne, sailboats, private islands, famous writers, family rituals, and ice-cold martinis. They lived life on their terms. But as time wore on, Upton, the charming and brilliant husband, the inventive, beguiling partner, grew opinionated, cranky, controlling, and dangerous.

When Upton died suddenly one evening in their Vermont cottage, Sally began uncovering secrets. As she went through his papers, she discovered that her husband of forty-six years had desired the love of other men. Her riveting, charismatic husband was not quite the man he appeared to be, and a year of mourning became for Sally a time to unravel the dark and unexpected web he had left behind. Hers is a moving and powerful story of coming to terms with what cannot be changed. It is also a story of great love.

BOOK EXCERPTS

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1
 
We cannot tell the story of anything without telling the story of everything.
—THOMAS BERRY
VERMONT, MARCH 23, 2008

My husband, Upton Birnie Brady, was born on Easter Sunday, April 17, 1938, at the Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C. His mother, Madee (Mah-dee, short for Mother dear), used to speak of this confluence with wonder. Cigarette between her fingers, she would tell how her young husband, Francis, had come to the hospital fresh from Mass, his arms full of violets. Susie, six; Ellen, almost four; and fifteen-month-old Francis, called Buff,

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REVIEWS

Praise for A Box of Darkness

“Her memoir is a form of therapy . . . There is much to admire in this tenderly told story.”—USA Today

“. . . well-written and moving . . . Though we as readers may be troubled by the certainty that Upton would have been horrified by his wife’s public version of their story, it’s to her credit that we feel as much compassion for his suffering as we do for hers.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Compelling.”—Entertainment Weekly

“‘It’s not hard to identify my emotions. What’s hard is filling in the gaps of a forty-six-year love affair,’ confesses Brady in her account of life with longtime Atlantic Monthly Press editor-in-chief Upton Birnie Brady. . . . Diagnosed by his therapist with narcissistic personality disorder, Upton, in Brady’s view, is both superhero and deeply flawed man; her memoir is as searing and tender as the life she describes.”—Publishers Weekly

“Brady’s engrossing chronicle of how she faced both the facts and mysteries of her husband’s concealed homosexuality offers generous and enlightening testimony to the true meaning of love.”—Booklist

A Box of Darkness can be appreciated for the beauty of the prose alone. Or for going on the wild ride that this marriage was, with its alternating heady romance and abject cruelty. . . . I loved this book.”—Elizabeth Berg, New York Times bestselling author of Home Safe

“Sally Brady has written a tremendously affecting account not just of her marriage—at once painful, beautiful and profound—but also of a particularly evocative and important era in American letters. The writing is clear and simple and dazzling, and the story is impossible to put down.”—Sebastian Junger, international best selling author of The Perfect Storm

“This is one of the most graceful and moving memoirs of marriage I’ve ever read.”—John Sedgwick, author of In My Blood

“Sally Brady paints a fascinating and touching portrait of a long but difficult marriage.... Though she chronicles secrets and lies, betrayals, addiction, illness and guilt, she always—and remarkably—finds her way to love. This is a brave book.”—Mameve Medwed, bestselling author of How Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved My Life

“This remarkably candid exploration of straight-girl-marries-secretly-gay-man reveals the layers of frustration, adoration and joy layered into a 47-year marriage. Buy two copies—one for yourself and one for your best friend.”—Leslie Morgan Steiner, author of the New York Times bestseller Crazy Love  

A Box of Darkness is passionate in its comprehension that the greatest of human loves is never only a romance novel but also, inevitably, a mystery play . . .”—Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked

“Much like Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle, this moving memoir is an absolute page-turner. Full of secrets and some tragedy, it also sings with glamour and romance. Ultimately, this is a story of love and redemption.”—Laurie Horowitz, author of The Family Fortune

“The marriage candidly portrayed here, with all its joys and failures, misunderstandings and misery, provides ample fodder for discussion in women’s book groups.”—Kirkus

“Sally Brady’s lively and candid memoir reminds us that long marriages are not always tranquil, and that sometimes their longevity both amazes and charms.”—C. Michael Curtis, senior editor, The Atlantic Monthly

A Box of Darkness is a fascinating glimpse into a troubled but resilient marriage, one plagued by alcohol and anger, deception and denial.  Sally Ryder Brady’s unflinching revelations will resonate with anyone in an abusive relationship, and spark lively debate about how much one ignores and sacrifices to stay married.”—Stephen McCauley, author of The Object of My Affection and Insignificant Others

A Box of Darkness shines a ray of light onto a complex, troubled, transcendently fascinating marriage and into the heart and soul of a brilliant, suffering, and ultimately triumphant woman.  You don’t just read this book; you live it.”—James Landis, author of The Last Day

“Beautifully organised and written. . . . It’s so honest and open and moving, I couldn't put it down.”—Elizabeth Chatwin (Bruce Chatwin’s widow)

“Sally Brady’s A Box of Darkness moves from harmony to extreme dissonance with lightning speed; you keep reading because you just know another surprise is coming any second. And the surprises do come, in the portrait of this often-tormented relationship between a man of secret sorrows and his increasingly wise wife.  The biggest surprise of all is that, in the end, love survives.”—Susan Quinn, award winning biographer of A Mind of Her Own: The Life of Karen Horney and Marie Curie: A Life 
“A compelling story of love—one of hard truths, tender affection, and an indomitable spirit. . . . Brady’s precise and evocative writing keeps you turning the pages, as she reveals a true love story, one you won’t forget. You’ll find here an endurance and compassion that staggers the mind.”—Elizabeth Cox, bestselling author of The Slow Moon

“A pysychological thriller that leads us through the labyrinthine contradictions of passionate love.”—Susan Bauer, Ph.D., author of The Love of Your Life: What We Learn from Living in the Grip of Passion

“Luminous, resonant, written with aching honesty, A Box of Darkness portrays a marriage and a life where a man and a woman, intertwined by their similar work and craft, manage to endure and flourish despite the fact that their union is grounded in a dark and disturbing secret.”—Joseph Olshan, author of Nightswimmer

In the Press

A BOX OF DARKNESS by Sally Ryder Brady | Kirkus Book Reviews
Read the Kirkus Review of A BOX OF DARKNESS The Story of a Marriage. Bittersweet memoir of a highly stressed marriage that somehow endured for nearly half a century.
- Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Sally Ryder Brady

  • SALLY RYDER BRADY, a writer, agent, teacher, and editor, is the author of a highly successful novel, Instar, an illustrated book of adult humor called Sweet Memories, and two books of non-fiction, A Yankee Christmas, Volumes I and II.
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A Box of Darkness

The Story of a Marriage

Sally Ryder Brady

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FROM THE PUBLISHER

St. Martin's Press

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