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The Widow's War: A Novel Paperback – January 30, 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (January 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060791586
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060791582
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #292,461 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Mystery author Gunning (Fire Water) moves to literary historical with this provocative tale of a whaling widow determined to forge a new life in colonial Cape Cod. When Lyddie Berry's husband drowns in 1761, her grief is compounded by the discovery that he's willed her the traditional widow's share—one-third use, but not ownership, of his estate. Lyddie's care, and the bulk of the estate, have been entrusted to their closest male relative, son-in-law Nathan Clarke, husband to their daughter Mehitable and a man used to ordering a household around. Lyddie's struggle to maintain a place in her radically changed home soon brings her into open conflict with an increasingly short-tempered Nathan and his children from two previous marriages. Gunning infuses the story with suspense and intrigue, as Lyddie's plight brings her into the orbit of local Indian Sam Cowett; community censure then brings her an ally in sympathetic lawyer Ebeneezer Freeman. Gunning resists easy generalizations and stereotypes while the story pulls in 18th-century law and Anglo-Indian relations, but the dull period dialogue, of which there is a great deal, reads awkwardly. Yet she makes Lyddie's struggle to remake her life credible and the world she inhabits complex. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

In a colonial whaling village, Lyddie Berry is very happy with her husband, Edward, the home they've built together over the years, and the children they've raised. When Edward is lost in a whaling disaster, Lyddie discovers her new status as a widow is not equal to her former status as a wife. All of the property Lyddie and Edward have acquired is now the responsibility of Lyddie's tight-fisted son-in-law. Although destitute and grieving, Lyddie finds righteous anger and strength, and challenges her son-in-law when he violates the terms of her husband's will. This defiance leads her to question other values held by the community about a woman's place, and even as she loses her reputation and home, she gains a deeper sense of self. Historical fiction isn't usually known for quick pacing, but readers will be swiftly turning the pages, eagerly cheering for the strong-willed widow. The crisp prose is flavored with the stinging salty atmosphere of a New England community witnessing one individual's war for independence. A good choice for book groups. Kaite Mediatore
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Sally Cabot Gunning lives with her husband in Brewster on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where her roots go back over three centuries. She came to writing at a young age, driven to it in desperation one rainy day when she ran out of books. Today Gunning focuses on digging out the back story to the history that we thought we knew but didn't, and giving it a human face. She is the author of three historical novels set in New England during the tempestuous years that led up to the American Revolution: The Widow's War, Bound, The Rebellion of Jane Clarke, and writing as Sally Cabot, Benjamin Franklin's Bastard.

Customer Reviews

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An excellent novel of historical fiction.
Sunflower Summer
If you want a good read that will immediately catch you up, I can't recommend this book highly enough.
Timothy J. Bazzett
I read this book in a little over a day and am looking forward to more from her!
CheyLady

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

89 of 94 people found the following review helpful By A. Pohren VINE VOICE on February 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
An unbelievably moving and provocative story, with characters that come alive and draw the reader in. Seldom has a story invoked such emotion within, as The Widow's War managed to do. It is a literary work of art ,that demands a permanent fixture on one's bookshelf.

I felt such compassion and extreme admiration for Lyddie. She was such a strong and likable person. It was easy to step into her and go through each emotion and hardship, along with the bits of happiness. This story also allows one to catch a glimpse of life in the mid-1700's - especially from a woman's perspective. How thankful it made me to be a woman of today's society, rather than one from that time period, where a woman was more or less viewed as a possession, of sorts, who lived through and for a man, rather than for herself.

The Widow's War - so appropriately titled - is a delectable piece of literary dessert, meant to be savored and cherished from page to page. It is sure to become a classic and is one that I will highly recommend to family, friends and book groups. This story is a definite not to be missed read!
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58 of 60 people found the following review helpful By J. Adamcyk on July 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
As a weekend and summer resident of Chatham, Cape Cod, I picked up this jewel of an autographed book at the in-town bookstore.

It was such an in-depth study of characters as well as carefully researched historical information of the year 1761. When Lyddie's whaling husband is lost at sea, she faces total loss of power. With the male heirs, (even through marriage, not necessarily through blood) to be the controllers of the estate, times were not good for women. Faced with her loss of husband, as well as status, and economic freedom, she refuses to live within the constraints of her village. She becomes a nurse and an entrepeneur, making cheeses, selling eggs, and starting the second chapter of her life. She becomes estranged from her only child, who has married the keeper of the family home. Liddie refuses to sign over her third share, and dislikes moving into the dower room of her daughter's home. When she returns to her home, and forges a relationship with her neighbors who happento be Indians, the plot develops. The Indian, Mr. Cowett, who failed to pull her husband from the sea,has a crucial role in her life. The role of the Puritanical church is also integral to the story.

I hated to have the book end, and as I read out here on the foggy days and nights of the Cape, I MADE myself only read a few chapters at one sitting. By finishing the book, I would end the story. REMARKABLE NOVEL.
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50 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Curmudgea on December 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a colonial American history buff, I loved this gem of a novel. I don't understand why it hasn't received more attention. The era and the characters were wonderfully imagined -- authentic-sounding (to me) dialogue and exactly the right amount of always relevant historical detail of 18th-century life. I didn't want the widow's story to end, and I'm hereby pleading with Sally Gunning (hope she reads these comments!) to abandon writing contemporary mysteries and give us another book like The Widow's War.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By ginnyk on June 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Lyddie, a whaler's wife, is widowed when her husband drowns. The law at the time gives her a life interest in the widow's 1/3 dower rights, and leaves her property and support at the mercy of her unsympathetic and greedy son-in-law. Sally Gunning describes the events that lead Lyddie to declaring her independence of her son-in-law, and of the other men who become involved in her life - an Indian who becomes her lover for a time, and a lawyer who wants to marry her. Inspired by what she learned of James Otis, who fought some trade acts in a legal battle that John Adams described as "Then and there the child Independence was born.", Lyddie learns that she can organize and run her life without having a man as her "master".

Sally Gunning presents well-rounded, very human and believable characters, with all of the faults, frailties, and triumphs of being human. Her setting and the events taking place around that community are very believable.

For a feminist (me), this story is a reminder of how far women have come, told in a well-written fashion. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable read.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By jdk on April 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I knew nothing about this book when I picked it up at my library. It was on a table of new offerings, so I took a look. As its milieu was Cape Cod, where I have spent many a summer, and it dealt with mid-eighteenth century living there, I took it home. I'm very glad that I did. Almost immediately I was deeply involved with the story of Lyddie Berry, recently widowed wife of Edward, a whale-hunter, and housewife in Satucket Village (modern-day Harwich), Massachusetts in 1761.

The story opens with her husband called to get to his boat for there are whales in the Massachusetts Bay. The weather is strong and his boat capsizes. He is lost. Lyddie's one surviving child had married a twice-widowered man whom Lyddie does not particularly like. Nathan Clarke is an officious, self-important man who expects his will to be done, no questions asked. When Lyddie, as Edward's "relict." is left dependent on Nathan under her husband's will, she chafes and, ultimately, rebels.

The author clearly has done exhaustive research because the reader gets such a full understanding of Satucket Village, its social strictures and the hardship of living in those days. But this is more than a history lesson -- it is a terrific story. The writing is crisp and beautifully descriptive. One feels as though one has suffered through the long, cold, damp winter on the Cape with Lyddie. As a widow, she has no authority to live on her own, but as a capable, intelligent woman, she cannot abide being dependent on others. After all, she ran her household for months at a time when Edward was away on his whaling trips. She was her own manager then. What really changed? And now she must sit as a dowager in a back room of her daughter's home and become an old woman at the age of 39? Intolerable!
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