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Unremarried Widow: A Memoir Hardcover – January 7, 2014


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (January 7, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451649282
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451649284
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (104 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #106,386 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

On the surface, Henderson has crafted a deeply moving memoir of love and grief that takes readers into the life of a military wife turned widow in a way that both embraces and transcends expectations. Shifting back and forth to before and after her husband’s death, she revisits her unlikely romance with a man whom she adored but who nevertheless led her away from the life she had planned and the career options she sought. Henderson fell in love with a soldier but not with military life, and her struggle to fit into his world continued right up until his death in a non-combat-related helicopter accident in Iraq. Her willingness to reveal the complexities of her marriage as well as the raw emotion of her loss makes for a compelling page-turner. Book clubs will find much to discuss here. As much about life as it is about death, Unremarried Widow is a wholly American story that will find broad appeal with every reader who has ever wondered if she made the right choice. --Colleen Mondor

Review

“There are many wonderful memoirs lining the shelves of bookstores today, but how many of these true stories can be deemed so powerful as to move a reader to tears? Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking is one that comes to mind, and, more recently, Wave, Sonali Deraniyagala's memoir of immense loss in the 2004 tsunami. Artis Henderson's stunning debut memoir, Unremarried Widow, is guaranteed to join the ranks of memoirs that will be talked about for years to come. . . . Truly unforgettable.” (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

“A powerful look at mourning as a military wife. . . . You can finish it in a day and find yourself haunted weeks later.” (New York Times Book Review (Editor's Choice))

"A frank, poignant memoir about an unlikely marriage, a tragic death in Iraq and the soul-testing work of picking up the pieces." (People)

“Honest, poised, and graceful . . . There’s profound and hard-won wisdom in these pages.” (Elle)

“Artis Henderson makes her debut with this poignant, deeply felt memoir about the death of her young solider-husband." (ChristianScienceMonitor.com)

"Charm and candor reside in abundance. . . . A singular, transformative account." (San Francisco Chronicle)

“Artis Henderson's grief becomes our gift in her piercingly beautiful memoir. . . . It is exceptional both because Henderson is a fine, spare and unsentimental writer—and because many if not most of us are never this close to the sorrow and upheaval a military loss brings.” (The Buffalo News)

“The book is a brave, unforgettable rendering of a young woman's difficult struggle to let go of one life and slowly embrace another. Not to mention the terrible, human cost of prolonged war.” (Palm Beach Post (Book of the Month))

“Artis Henderson’s book is easily the best memoir I read last year. It’s one of those books you pick up and don’t put down until you’re done. And, believe me, you are done. Henderson underwrites every scene, and, because her writing is so clean and controlled, each sentence tightens her grip on your heart. When she releases you, expect to be blinded by tears.” (HeadButler.com)

“Henderson is an author unafraid to tackle big issues like love and identity, yet the book rarely feels heavy-handed because we arrive at these topics through her very personal story. Unremarried Widow is an unflinching, honest and raw book that will likely evoke a strong emotional reaction from the reader. It certainly did from me. If you like true love stories (even tragic ones) and good writing, give this book a try. Just be ready to break out the tissues.” (Bookpage)

“In her fluid prose Henderson portrays a moving journey to selfhood that strikes the reader as authentic and emotionally honest.” (Publishers Weekly)

“A beautiful debut from an exciting new voice.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

“A deeply moving memoir of love and grief that takes readers into the life of a military wife turned widow in a way that both embraces and transcends expectations. . . . Her willingness to reveal the complexities of her marriage as well as the raw emotion of her loss makes for a compelling page-turner. Book clubs will find much to discuss here. . . . A wholly American story that will find broad appeal with every reader who has ever wondered if she made the right choice.” (Booklist)

“Through graceful prose and a reflective stance, Henderson recounts her romance and marriage to Miles, a solider she could not help but love despite their different worldviews.” (LibraryJournal.com)

“Spanning six years, the memoir includes Artis's eventual move into a successful writing career, but the image that lingers is of the war widow, the sorrow she so eloquently and generously expresses, and the realization that the war that claimed Miles continues.” (ShelfAwareness.com)

“Reading Unremarried Widow is like coming across an unexpectedly powerful monument in a cemetery—you stand there imagining someone else’s story, and suddenly you realize that it’s our story, that it connects us to something large and lasting, even as it separates us from an irreclaimable past.” (Rhoda Janzen, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Mennonite in a Little Black Dress)

Unremarried Widow is a beautifully crafted memoir of uncommon candor and power. Everyone should read this book for what it says about our profound capacity for love, and to remind us all of just how much we ask of those who serve in harm’s way—and of the loved ones they leave behind.” (Will Schwalbe, New York Times bestselling author of The End of Your Life Book Club)

“Artis Henderson’s remarkable memoir allows readers into the seldom-seen and unexpected world of the war widow. Henderson’s eloquently rendered grief honors the soldiers lost and the resilient widows who carry on, all while she reassembles her life by pursuing a dream of writing.” (Siobhan Fallon, author of You Know When the Men Are Gone)

“With unflinching openness, Artis Henderson allows us into a world not often explored from the poignant perspective of the unremarried widow. Her personal journey of loss and love is deeply affecting in its honesty and humanity, and her straightforward style is deceptively profound, effective long after the last page is read.” (Marian Fontana, New York Times bestselling author of A Widow’s Walk)

“Artis Henderson’s extraordinary book takes its title from the dry, bureaucratic language of the military. But she invests that phrase with two kinds of soaring passion. One is the love story of herself and her husband Miles, opposites who attract with a chemistry that shimmers off the page. The other is the mourning story of her life after Miles’s death and it is unsparing in its heartbreak. Together, the ‘before’ and ‘after’ of Henderson’s life add up to an urgent act of witness, a saga of what the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have meant to that too-small portion of America that made and bore all the sacrifices.” (Samuel G. Freedman, author of Breaking the Line and Who She Was)

“Artis Henderson’s Unremarried Widow is as engrossing as a good novel, but the story it tells is true and raw. In giving us an intimate, complex glimpse into the culture of military wives, and in writing about charged subjects—war, grief, gender, and our sometimes conflicting allegiances—with honesty and without judgment, she makes us witness to matters that touch all of our lives, whether we dare to acknowledge them or not.” (Leah Hager Cohen, author of The Grief of Others)

“When I picked up Artis Henderson's brave, beautiful memoir about the death of her husband in Iraq, I expected to be devastated, and I was. Unremarried Widow is an unwavering look at young love and young loss, the physicality of grief, and what it means to be left behind. What I didn't expect was to be inspired. Henderson's story is also one of strength—the strength it takes to fall in love, to let it go, to follow your passion, to move on.” (Molly Birnbaum, author of Season to Taste)

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
5 star
70
4 star
25
3 star
7
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2
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See all 104 customer reviews
A beautiful love story!
Mary A. Newman
If I had been in that situation, I like to think I'd run the other way.
Jesse Kornbluth
Those in grief will learn that help can come from surprising sources.
Bob B

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Jesse Kornbluth TOP 500 REVIEWER on January 7, 2014
Format: Hardcover
In 2004, in a club in Tallahassee, 24-year-old Artis Chester met 23-year-old Miles Henderson. He was thin and wiry, handsome "with blue eyes that reminded me of the Gulf in winter." She was, she says, "not the kind of girl that men pick up." But he was, to her delight, employed -- he'd stayed in school in Colorado only until his ski lift ticket expired. They danced. She let him kiss her. And she revised her opinion. "I am that kind of girl."

Nine months before he deployed to Iraq, Miles dreamed of his death. He shared his dream with Artis: "Our helicopter crashed. We floated above the helicopter while it burned to the ground." But although she took the dream as a warning, she knew how to neutralize it: "If I loved him well enough, he would come home."

On July 1, 2006, they got married.

Three weeks later, Miles deployed to Iraq.

Four months and five days later, Miles died in a helicopter crash.

"Everything will be okay." Those are her first words when two soldiers come to tell her of her husband's death. But it won't be okay. It may never be. Eight years later, she is still, to use the official Army term, an "unremarried widow."

Artis Henderson's book is easily the best memoir I read last year. It's one of those books you pick up and don't put down until you're done. And, believe me, you are done. Henderson underwrites every scene, and, because her writing is so clean and controlled, each sentence tightens her grip on your heart. When she releases you, expect to be blinded by tears.

But loss is not the only takeaway. Miles is so decent, their marriage is so promising and Artis is so compelling that "Unremarried Widow" has an unexpected effect -- it's a completely fulfilling, exhilarating reading experience.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Nathan Webster TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 6, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I embedded in Iraq several times as a photojournalist, and met a variety of young soldiers (plus I was in the Army myself during Desert Storm), and was always amazed by how many were married with children. One of the often overlooked experiences from these wars is the story of young widows (and widowers) who go on living, in just their early 20s, after their spouse has died.

I'm not saying we've 'forgotten' these 'left-behind' men and women exist, but I don't think we know what really goes on after the funeral and folded flag, and the perfunctory 'sorry for your sacrifice.' We feel sad, and we sympathize, but we've held them on such a pedestal that it's impossible to empathize. They're martyrs, not normal people.

Artis Henderson's story does as good a job of relating the other side of that experience as I've ever read.

A few other reviews of "Unremarried Widow" point out what they perceive as a "lack" of emotion that Henderson shows. That might be a fair point, but it's what I consider the book's strongest trait. Henderson isn't resorting (and I'm not saying other men/women have) to melodrama or pleas for sympathy, or patriotic martyrdom - instead she's relating about as awful a story as there is with an honest and blunt dispassion that pulls the reader closer to her experience. I never found myself saying "oh, poor Artis," from a detached point of view, but instead my heart was breaking along with her, because the story was so straightforward, detailed and expressive - but never telling me how I should feel. The events did that, not any demand from her. I guess it's hard to explain exactly what I mean, that "less emotion is more emotion," but that was how I felt.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I hesitated to read a book where I knew a significant part would focus on grief. But that initial reluctance disappeared quickly as I was drawn into this memoir, one written with unflinching honesty and depth by Artis Henderson. It isn't a watered down or rosy portrait of a military wive's marriage.

Even though Henderson sometimes chafed at the rules and regulations - and frequent moves - which were integral parts of her life, she also loved her husband, Miles, deeply and passionately. For me, that love shone even more brightly when set against the challenges Henderson and Miles faced, long before he was deployed to Iraq.

I'm grateful I was able to read an early copy of this book. It is one of those finely wrought books which allow readers to be totally immersed in the author's life. Henderson vividly describes how she lived before meeting her husband, working 40 hours a week for a U.S. senator, feeling so lonely that she often spent her weekends in the library reading travel guides. But then there is the night she goes out dancing and meets Miles. And even though he seemed far different from the man she imagined marrying, it also seemed instantly natural and right that they would end up together.

At this point, you might be thinking, "Cue the violins and romantic music". Lonely young woman meets handsome man and romance saves the day. But Artis had been against the Iraq war and Miles was determined to serve his country. How on earth could two people with such different backgrounds make a relationship work?

Rather than being a strictly chronological account of her relationship with Miles, Henderson adds an extra dimension to this memoir by including sections focused on her childhood and teen years and her difficult relationship with her mother.
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