The Rye Bread Marriage

How I Found Happiness with a Partner I’ll Never Understand


By Michaele Weissman

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How do partners in long-lasting relationships live together without driving each other up a wall? After forty years of marriage, Michaele Weissman has a few answers.
When they first meet, John— a dashing European, a Latvian refugee, a physics PhD—is hoping to settle down. Michaele, a fast-talking American college student, is hungry for an independent life as a writer and historian. “I am too young, and you are too Latvian,” the twenty-year-old Michaele tells the twenty-eight-year-old John, explaining why she is ending their four-month romance.

Fifteen years later, the two are married. Their love for each other does not assuage the trauma John experienced as a child during World War II; nor does it help Michaele understand her husband’s unwavering devotion to every aspect of Latvian culture, particularly his passion for the dark, intense rye bread of his birthplace (nothing like the rye she knew growing up in her secular Jewish household).

Michaele feels like an outsider in her own relationship, unable to touch a core piece of her husband’s being. So, as John realizes his dream of opening a rye bread bakery, Michaele embarks on a fascinating journey. Delving into history and traveling across Europe with John, she excavates poignant stories of war, privation, and resilience—and realizes at last that rye bread represents everything about John’s homeland that he loved and lost. Eventually Michaele even comes to love rye bread, too.

How do the stories we live and the stories we inherit play out in our relationships? How do individuals learn to tolerate ethnic, religious, and national differences? The Rye Bread Marriage is a beautifully told, often humorous, love story about the messiness of spending a lifetime with another human being. Michaele Weissman reminds us that every relationship is a mystery—and a miracle.

  • “In her captivating memoir, Michaele Weissman affirms that we are all more connected than we think. With a little bit of humor and a lot of grace, Weissman makes the case that marriage is an emotional continuum, and love is just one end of it. This book is all at once honest, relatable and endearing.”
    Pati Jinich, New York Times bestselling cookbook author and host + executive producer of PBS’s La Frontera and Pati's Mexican Table
  • “Weissman's striking reverence, her bold humility, and her compassion for her brilliant and traumatized Latvian husband as she unearths his compulsion for his home country’s bread make this tale of food and love and life and war soar. I closed the last pages with tears in my eyes for the gift of these complex histories, this compelling love story—and a determination to find the best rye bread in town.”
    Lauren Francis-Sharma, author of Book of the Little Axe
  • “This book is a love letter, one that explores relationships and marriage. It’s a book about the history and the beauty of bread. But most important it is a courageous book about the complexity of love.”
    Mark Furstenberg, James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Baker 2017 and owner of Bread Furst Bakery
  • “Beautiful. Michaele Weissman takes us on a magical journey across continents and time, and I doubt there is a couple who won’t see themselves in the story of this marriage. The trail of rye bread crumbs (real and symbolic) led me to an emotional glimpse of the impact of love, war and fear on our humanity and who we become.”

    Liz Neumark, CEO and founder, Great Performances Catering, and author of Sylvia’s Table.
  • "What is marriage? is a question asked and answered throughout this engaging, thoughtful, and compassionate memoir. The Rye Bread Marriage is a wonderful read."

    Elizabeth Poliner, author, As Close to Us as Breathing
  • "A charming, insightful meditation on the intersection of love, family, and food."
    Kirkus Reviews
  • “The result is a witty celebration of marriage that’s sure to resonate with anyone who’s taken the plunge.”
    Publishers Weekly
  • “I loved this book; it’s one of the most real, honest, funny and at times heartbreaking stories about what it’s like to be in a long-term marriage."
  • “Moving… a satisfying meal of a memoir”
    Culture Wag

On Sale
Aug 15, 2023
Page Count
288 pages
Algonquin Books

Michaele Weissman

About the Author

Michaele Weissman is a freelance journalist and author who writes about food, families, and American culture. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and dozens of other online and paper publications. She is the co-author with Carol Hymowitz of A History of Women in America, a narrative history that has sold nearly 250,000 copies since its publication in 1980. More recently, she is the author of God in a Cup, a travelogue and exploration of the specialty coffee scene.  She teaches writing and is a member of the steering committee of New Directions, a writing program for scholars and psychotherapists offered by the Washington Center for Psychoanalysis. At Politics and Prose, she co-leads sold out workshops helping writers find the imagery–and language–that is uniquely theirs. The mother and stepmother of three foodies, she has been married for 38 years to her rye bread co-conspirator, John Melngailis, a retired professor of electrical engineering at the University of Maryland. The couple live, cook, and entertain in Chevy Chase, MD.

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