The Pleasure Was Mine

St. Martin's Press, 2005
  • Finalist for 2006 Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) Fiction Award
  • Read on NPR’s Radio Reader
  • Read on South Carolina’s SCETV-Radio’s “Southern Read”
  • Selected for numerous community-wide reading programs in various cities and counties, including the Amazing Read in Greenville, South Carolina, and One City, One Book Community Read in Greensboro, North Carolina.
  • Starred reviews from Kirkus Review and Publisher’s Weekly.

 The Pleasure Was Mine is the story of three men: Prate Marshbanks, his grown son Newell, and his grandson Jackson — as they come to terms with the fading of Irene; wife and mother, heart and center of the family. Set in Greenville, South Carolina and Western North Carolina, the book is narrated by Prate, a prickly house painter who retires to care for Irene. As Prate adjusts to these life changes, Newell, a recently widowed art teacher in Asheville, needs to spend the summer at Penland, an art colony in the mountains. He leaves Jackson, his reticent, bookish son, with Prate for the summer, and Prate finds himself in the uncomfortable position of having to get to know his moody grandson.


“Hays’s elegiac, penetrating description of Prate’s marriage frames the landscape of this brilliant novel about love, loss, marriage and family.” Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)

“… Hays beautifully captures a husband’s grief as he watches his beloved wife slip into Alzheimer’s. … 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 (starred review)

“This beautifully written, bitter-sweet story is quintessentially Southern, but, like the best of Southern fiction, speaks to the heart of the human condition.” —Walter Edgar, South Carolina Public Radio

“A folksy, heartfelt paean to the deep love of a long marriage.” —Sara Isaac, The Orlando Sentinel

“Tommy Hays writes beautifully. Better yet, he is heart-true… His subject matter, his sense of the South and Southerners, his ability to reflect on the deep in the ordinary are reminiscent of James Agee’s A Death in the Family and Eudora Welty’s Delta Wedding. —Claudia Smith Brinson, The State

“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. …  The Pleasure Was Mine is just that sort of novel — charming, unpretentious, easy to read but deeply engaging. … It’s a tender, affecting story, simply but powerfully told.” —Polly Paddock, The Charlotte Observer

“(T) ranscendent magic” Steve Whitton, The Anniston Star

“So many of us have experienced the slow loss of a family member to Alzheimer’s. We’ve yearned for help in preserving the dignity of our afflicted loved one. We’ve needed a book that tells our story with respect and love. Tommy Hays has written that book for us in The Pleasure Was Mine.” D.G. Martin, Bookwatch, UNC-TV

“Prate grapples doggedly with the daily heartaches and frustrations of a caregiver desperately trying to do it all before it’s too late…. Prate’s widowed son, Newell; solemn young grandson, Jackson; and neighbor, Billie – each of them with their own emptiness to overcome – help transform Prate’s life, and the broken group recasts itself into a new whole, molded by Irene’s tragedy and their own love and resilience.” Janet Pittard, Our State

“(Q) uietly elegant and touching…. (A) moving story of the way that love shifts and grows and finds new ways to express itself, even in loss.” —Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina, The Book Show, Northeast Public Radio
“(T) he story of family relationships, how they are formed and how they grow, what they mean to us all. In spite of the sadness of the situation, the reader is left with the light of hope and the warmth of love.” Reese Danley-Kilgo, The Huntsville Times

The Pleasure Was Mine serves to remind us that what we often perceive as the end of something can be the beginning of something else… Prate begins his story thinking that his own story is at its end… yet throughout the story we witness him awakening again to life, finding strength in his memories of his earlier life with Irene, discovering an unexpected source of deep affection in his regard for his sad little grandson, and arriving at a better understanding of his son.” Jeff Minick, Smoky Mountain News

“Hays is a fantastically gifted writer, one who can portray beauty in the midst of almost unbearable pain… The Pleasure Was Mine is an incredible book that is destined to become a classic.” Susan Farrington, The Sanford Herald

The Pleasure Was Mine is a completely engaging, authentic portrayal of a family’s encounter with Alzheimer’s disease. Beautifully crafted, poignantly funny, and astonishingly insightful, it navigates through a journey that will become increasingly common for our aging population. Tommy Hays probes the meaning of memory and its impact upon our most intimate relationships and leaves us hopeful, inspired, and wiser for the reading. ” —Margaret A. Noel, M.D., Retired Director, MemoryCare

“Irene’s early changes are described with poignant accuracy, but it is Prate’s resilience, steadfast confidence in what he learns through experience and delightful capacity to surprise himself that is the soul of this story. Prate’s extraordinary ordinariness allows him to tell an authentic Alzheimer’s family story almost lyrically.” —Lisa P. Gwyther, Bryan Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, Duke University Medical School

The Pleasure Was Mine is an experience to be savored, to share with those you love, and to remember.” Curtis Edmonds,

“A tender and gentle story about long-term love and kinship,  The Pleasure Was Mine illuminates one of the toughest challenges a family may face. With his deft touch for humor and a generous sympathy for his characters, Tommy Hays reveals the chance for fresh starts where we thought there were only endings.” —Josephine Humphreys, author of Nowhere Else On Earth and Rich in Love

“I learned more than most novels tell me and I was profoundly moved.” —Reynolds Price, author of A Long and Happy Life and a Whole New Life.

“Tragic and funny, The Pleasure Was Mine proves that Tommy Hays knows his way around the human heart.” —George Singleton, author of Half Mammals of Dixie and The Curious Lives of Nonprofit Martyrs.

The Pleasure Was Mine is a work filled with beautiful writing, convincing characters, pathos and humor. My life is enriched for having read this book.” —Ron Rash, author Serena and The Caretaker.