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The Widower's Tale: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 7, 2010

192 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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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From Bookmarks Magazine

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.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; First Edition edition (September 7, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030737792X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307377920
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.4 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (192 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,018,257 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

100 of 103 people found the following review helpful By B. Case TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Julia Glass' fourth novel, "The Widower's Tale" is another work rich with the complexities of everyday life. It is a lovely story full of remarkable and fascinating characters. It will please the author's many fans, but it will most likely not have wide popular appeal or significant literary praise.

The book focuses on the lives of four men: Percy, Robert, Celestino, and Ira. The book's chapters are alternately told from the viewpoints of each of these four characters, although only Percy Darling is given the honor of having his story told in the first person. Percy is the widower of the book's title. He is an eccentric retired Harvard librarian. He is fiercely independent and physically robust. Percy is an intellectual with a keen mind and a warm heart. He is the patriarch of a fascinating family consisting of two daughters, two sons-in-law, and three grandchildren.

The second main character is Robert, Percy's grandson. He is a premed student at Harvard who becomes close friends with his college roommate, Arturo. Robert is the admirable young man that almost any parent would be proud of having raised. Unfortunately, through Arturo, Robert is drawn into a world of college-prank-style acts of local eco-terrorism.

The third main character is Ira, a teacher working in the preschool that is located in the barn behind Percy's home. Ira's partner, Antony, is a successful divorce lawyer helping Percy's daughter with a custody battle. Both men become close friends of Percy and his family.

The fourth main character is Celestino, an illegal Guatemalan immigrant working as a gardener for Percy's next-door neighbor. Percy, Robert, and Ira each become good friends with Celestino.
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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Jill I. Shtulman TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Wow, this book was an incredible treat! Julia Glass gifts her readers with a stunning tale, a tale that encompasses multigenerational relationships, love and self-forgiveness, family loyalty and betrayal, the meaning of parenthood, and the intricate web of human connections.

Percy Darling - a 70-year-old retired librarian with an offbeat wit and courtly manners - is at the vortex of this novel, the only character that narrates from the first-person perspective. He has spent years in self-inflicted soltitude following the senseless and inadvertent death of his wife three decades earlier. After making an uncharacteristic choice - allowing his barn to become a preschool to help his rootless older daughter - his solitary life becomes dramatically transformed.

Gradually, this trustafarian finds his world turned upside down as he falls for a younger woman with a young adopted son named Rico. A sudden complication in that relationship will emotionally test him in ways that he would never have dreamt possible. To add insult to injury, his beloved grandson, Robert - a Harvard pre-med student - becomes involved in an eco-activism movement that will shake his complacency even more.

The characters that Julia Glass creates - including a Guatemalan landscaper, a gay preschool teacher and his divorce attorney partner, and Percy Darling's two very opposite daughters - come alive so eloquently that they could literally walk off the pages. This book examines not only one's responsibility to oneself, but to one's family and to society at large by shining its laser beam onto the haves-and-have-nots in affluent New England and the costs and rewards of opening up to others.

I loved this richly-layered and beautifully-rendered book. I cared about the very original cast of characters and the emotional and social issues they confront. Kudos to Ms. Glass for a totally absorbing read!
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60 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Red Rock Bookworm TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Books in which an author espouses their own thinly veiled political philosophy and opinions by placing them in the mouths of their characters usually have a negative effect on me especially when the comments have absolutely nothing to do with advancing the storyline. The Widowers Tale by Julia Glass, is a classic illustration of this with its slyly placed comments such as "It's a stodgy place - practically Republican", or "We'd have seen none of this infernal mess if we hadn't elected that Mafia puppet Jack Kennedy to the White House", or "As Barack Obama is showing us all these days, it's time to inspire patriotism in our youngest citizens".

Hidden agendas and intellectual snobbery aside, I willingly admit that I did enjoy most of this excursion into the life of septuagenarian Percy Darling, his two grown daughters, his grandson, his unexpected love interest as well as the assorted peripheral acquaintances, friends, and neighbors that populate this richly layered and memorable novel about friendship, family secrets and the strange twists of fate that shape our lives. The story takes place over the course of one year and manages to squeeze in every topic from gay marriage and ecological activism (read eco-terrorism if you are more moderate than liberal) to the plight of both the uninsured and the undocumented. Many of Glass's characters appear to be victims of some sort of personal exile and while some storylines are more well developed than others and add to the readers enjoyment and understanding, others like that of the Guatemalan gardener, Celestino, appear to be more gratuitous than necessary to the advancement of the narrative.
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