From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Percy Darling, 70, the narrator of Glass's fourth novel, takes comfort in certitudes: he will never leave his historic suburban Boston house, he is done with love (still guilty about his wife's death 30 years ago), and his beloved grandson Robert, a Harvard senior, will do credit to the family name. But Glass (Three Junes) spins a beautifully paced, keenly observed story in which certainties give way to surprising reversals of fortune. Percy is an opinionated, cantankerous, newly retired Harvard librarian and nobody's "darling," who decides to lease his barn to a local preschool, mainly to give his daughter Clover, who has abandoned her husband and children in New York, a job. Percy's other daughter is a workaholic oncologist in Boston who becomes important to a young mother at the school with whom Percy, to his vast surprise, establishes a romantic relationship. Meanwhile, Percy's grandson, Robert, falls in with an ecoterrorist group. Glass handles the coalescing plot elements with astute insights into the complexity of family relationships, the gulf between social classes, and our modern culture of excess to create a dramatic, thought-provoking, and immensely satisfying novel.
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In The Widower's Tale
, Glass continues to explore the intricate ties of family and friendship that have become her trademark. Some critics felt the novel was just as evocative, timely, and emotionally gratifying as Three Junes
, and they enjoyed the novel's different voices and timely issues. Others, however, couldn't get past the inauthentic dialogue and overuse of clichés, such as the droll gay couple who also love whipping up gourmet cuisine. Additionally, several reviewers felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of issues introduced, from health insurance and gay rights to illegal immigration and ecoterrorism, and felt that Glass may have better succeeded at examining just a few of these more deeply. To sum it up, perhaps a trip to the public library may be a less risky venture than a hardcover purchase.