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An Available Man: A Novel Hardcover – January 24, 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (January 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345527542
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345527547
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (157 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #423,093 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Mary Gordon Reviews An Available Man

Mary Gordon is the author of six previous novels, two memoirs, a short-story collection, and Reading Jesus, a work of nonfiction. She has received many honors, among them a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers' Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an O. Henry Award, an Academy Award for Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Story Prize. She is the State Writer of New York. Gordon teaches at Barnard College and lives in New York City.

A widower in his sixties: healthy, solvent, with almost all his hair. Potentially a subject for satire or impatient, knowing ironies. But Edward Schuyler doesn't get this harsh treatment from Hilma Wolitzer. An Available Man is a triumph of tender observation: wry, compassionate, literate, and often very very funny.

Edward Schuyler, a devoted high school science teacher, finds himself radically bereft when his beloved wife, Bee, dies after a painful illness. With great delicacy, Wolitzer limns the outlines of the paralyzing grief that accompanies the loss of a great love.

But the world has a limited appetite for extended grief. Everyone urges him to move on--and by moving on they mean dating. His step-children, who are devoted to him, place an ad in the New York Review of Books. The results of this ad are the occasion for Wolitzer’s most delicious observations. "'Sensual, smart, stunning, sensitive.' Oh, why do they always resort to alliteration...This one's a music lover? Well, who doesn't like music, besides the Taliban? 'Searching for that special someone to share Bach, Brecht, and breakfast.' When they’ll probably eat bagels, bacon, and brussels sprouts."

Some of the book's most searingly poignant moments trace the darker side of mature matchmaking (maybe alliteration's catching.) There is the grieving widow whose house is a shrine to her dead husband...and whose life is a living mausoleum. There is the seventy-something plastic surgery addict who confesses to a desperate search for an impossibly vanished youth. And then there is Edward's former love, who left him at the altar, who turns out to be...well, still crazy after all these years.

The richness of the book can be accounted for in no small part, however, by Wolitzer's evocation of the mixture of emptiness and fullness that is Edward's life. He has his students, he's a birder, he has friends, he's a devoted stepfather...and the owner of an increasingly ailing, aging dog.

We never fail to root for Edward, and we and he are both rewarded by a sweet and satisfying end: a well earned coda to a novel that sheds a lovely, sometimes bittersweet, but finally hopeful light on one of the important ways we live now.


Praise for An Available Man

“Wonderful new novel… often hilarious and always compassionate.”--The New York Times Book Review

"Charming...affecting...emotionally layered"--Maureen Corrigan, NPR's Fresh Air

“Tender, witty…smart and poignant, An Available Man explores some universal truths—that the past is never past, life is for the living, and dating is really, really hard.”--O, the Oprah Magazine

“[Hilma Wolitzer is an] American literary treasure…Wolitzer uses her gift for her chosen medium, long-form fiction, to deliver a message far broader than this deceptively accessible novel first seems to address. An Available Man is not just a cautionary tale of geriatric loneliness and sex. It’s a meditation - and then, a breathtaking roller-coaster ride, and then, a meditation again - on what we lose when we allow loss and longing to make us unavailable to ourselves.”--Boston Globe

“[F]unny, wise and touching… Wolitzer writes so well and knows so much that her books combine absurdity with poignancy in a deft and captivating way.”—The Washington Post

“Impressively readable… Wolitzer is such a capable storyteller. …(S)ucceeds, precisely because the writer understands that it's not a childish insistence on finding everything delightful but the full complexity of experience that gives a romance, late-life or otherwise, its real beauty.”Philadelphia Enquirer

“Wolitzer is, by turns, funny, shocking, poignant and wise…”--Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Heartbreaking, maddening, comical, and poignant…This sweet story of a man’s diving back into the dating pool at an older age will especially appeal to readers in that demographic.  ”--Library Journal

“I absolutely loved An Available Man (and not, I swear, because I’m partial to widowers). For a start, Edward Schuyler is someone I desperately wish I could invite to my next dinner party (and not, I swear, because there are half a dozen women I’d like him to meet). This is a book to savor page by page, filled with astute detail, both comic and mournful, about what it’s like to be middle-aged and lonely yet not give up on the search for love.”—Julia Glass, author of The Widower’s Tale and the National Book Award-winning Three Junes

“Wolitzer [writes] of the pain of losing a partner and its aftermath . . . with remarkable insight, grace, and humor. A warm, keenly incisive view of life’s vicissitudes by a writer too seldom heard from.”—Booklist

“Comic, tender, and delicious, in An Available Man, the broken-hearted rise again to heal and find love anew. Hilma Wolitzer is a national treasure, and she’s at her best here in the story of Edward Schuyler, a grieving widower who must put down his binoculars to see the world with new eyes. You will love it!”—Adriana Trigiani, bestselling author of Big Stone Gap and Very Valentine

“Wolitzer’s rapturously charming look at love in late life plumbs the depths of grief and longing to reveal the heady shine of new possibilities. What can I say? With its cast of exuberantly alive characters and a wise and witty plot, this book is love at first sight.”—Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You

“Hilma Wolitzer is a master of the domestic world, and her writing is graceful, stylish, intelligent and so, so funny! This is a lovely novel, an elegant bouquet of family life, made up of tenderness and confusion, grief and solace, uncertainty and commitment, and the unexpectedness of love.”—Roxana Robinson, author of Cost
“I’m completely in love with this particular available man, and with the words that brought him to life for me. This book is very dear to my heart. What a gratifying read: wit! poignancy! authenticity! I asked myself constantly, How does Hilma Wolitzer do it?”—Elinor Lipman, author of Then She Found Me

“Families are Wolitzer’s turf, and she’s an observant and often humorous chronicler of domesticity and the stuff that comes with it: illness, loss, boredom, crankiness, and, on good days, love.”—Publishers Weekly

More About the Author

I'm a late-blooming novelist and I mostly write about domestic situations. I truly believe that what happens in bedrooms and kitchens matters as much as what happens in boardrooms and statehouses. The novel I'm writing now is somewhat of a departure; it's a psychological mystery, although family relations are at the heart of the story.

Customer Reviews

Very enjoyable read...I highly recommend this touching book.
A book lover in Azle Texas
I truly think that this book gives readers a great look into grief and how one goes on after losing a spouse.
Annie B
Hilma Wolitzer fills her book with interesting secondary characters.
Nitty's Mom

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Harold Wolf TOP 50 REVIEWER on December 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
What can a 62 year old man do when he's lost his wife, the true love of his life? Grief is not compromising; it is as real as breath, takes no holidays, and lingers with spurts of rejuvenation at unexpected moments. As a reader, AND a man having passed a similar situation in real life, I selected this book to see if the fictional character reacted similarly. Moving on with life after a death is difficult and personal. Can Edward in "An Available Man" move onward? For Edward, hormonal drive eventually shifted into high gear.

This novel brought about memories of reading C.S. Lewis' "A Grief Observed", but this novel seems to pick up where Lewis abruptly ended his recorded grief journey. Actually the beginning of this novel could serve as an empathy read for a male survivor of a marriage separation caused by death. Especially when the marriage was exquisitely fine. All the components of grief are displayed by this fictional character, it seems quite real, and I can personally vouch for the authenticity. One significant difference from Lewis, is that Edward is a professed atheist.

Then the abomination happens. Do gooders, in the form of Amanda, Julie, Sybil, & Joy, intervene in the recovery and romance process via a secret listing of a mate-wanted ad in the NY Review. The intent for the gals was getting Edward back into "available action" and socializing. The objective for the book was to add some humor into a story about passing beyond the grief process. The best line of the novel is a referral to `dating after death.' The aftermath of the personal ad brings letters, rendezvous of lustiness, female fang attacks, and other senior dating misadventures that often paralleled desperation and groin depravity.
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49 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Angie Boyter VINE VOICE on January 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Edward Schuyler is a 62-year-old science teacher who loves birding, his dog Bingo, his grown stepchildren and mother-in-law, and, most of all, his wife Bee, who is dead of pancreatic cancer. To women of a certain age, Edward is a real catch, and his stepchildren bait the line by posting his information in a personal ad in the New York Review of Books (My gosh, do they DO personal ads?!). Not surprisingly, quite a few women rise to the bait, and Edward gets many nibbles before landing a keeper.
Before I get to the reasons for my relatively low rating, let me assure you there were good parts. Wolitzer handles words well, and I relished quite a few turns of phrase, such as Edward's evaluation of his relationship to his wife's family, "If Bee had been the glue that held them together, then he was the Velcro. Not as secure, maybe, but there would be an awful tearing sound if he pulled away." Or his reaction to a student's essay on evolution that talks about species dying out because they couldn't adapt to the changing environment: "he thought, in a flash of spiteful satisfaction, of Bruce Silver [Bee's former husband], still selling paper in a digital age."
The other good element in the book is Edward himself. Edward is a great character. He is a good man but not an outstanding one. He wouldn't sweep a woman off her feet, but I think he'd be pretty easy to live with. I can understand why women would be attracted to him.
On the downside, I might have liked this book better if the upfront descriptions had not raised expectations that were not met. I selected this book because it was recommended for fans of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand. Except for the fact that these are both stories about middle-aged love, the comparison is not apt.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Nitty's Mom TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
An Available Man is a simple, straightforward story about Edward Schuyler, a 62 year old widower. While comparisons may be made to "The Widowers 'Tale" and "Major Pettigrew's Last Stand" this book has less of a plot and fewer story lines. Edward Schuyler and his foray back into "dating after death" makes up the crux of the book.

Edward Schuyler was very much in love with his wife and her two children. He married later in life, and planned to grow old and retire with Bee. Her death is a devastating loss, and Edward's step-children decide to take out an ad in the personal section of The New York Review of Books. Edward is at first very reluctant, however, when the replies start coming back in groves, he decides to pick and choose some of the most promising. What ensues is a barrage of dates, that while predictable are still worthy of a chuckle and in some cases a tear. An old and unreliable love from his past also re-enters into Edward's life and makes things even more confusing for the 62 year old science teacher.

Hilma Wolitzer fills her book with interesting secondary characters. Edward's two step-children are touching, in their concern for their step-father, Bee's 90 year old mother who has the misfortune of outliving her daughter, a housekeeper with a knack for reading the future, a loyal 15 year old dog, and two school chums who add their own brand of wisdom. Whether you like or dislike this book rests on Edward Schuyler's middle age shoulders because he is at the core of the story. While perhaps not the most novel of stories, I felt myself rooting for Edward, and I wanted to see him find happiness the second time around.
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