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Widow for One Year Audio, Cassette – Audiobook, Unabridged

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Editorial Reviews Review

John Irving's A Widow For One Year is the epic story of a family, dysfunctional at best, unable to cope with tragedy--or with each other. The unabridged audiobook, narrated by George Guidall (The Cat Who Sang for the Birds, The Inner Sanctum, The Legacy) draws the listener in with a crisp, methodical vocal presentation. Guidall portrays each character with a convincingly distinct voice, accurately impersonating the characters' intonations and verbal habits. The interaction between characters is both conversational and believable.

We first meet Ruth Cole in the summer of 1958 when she walks in on her mother having sex with 16-year-old Eddie O'Hare, the assistant to Ruth's alcoholic father. The death of Ruth's older brothers (years before she was born) turns her mother, Marion, into a zombie who is unable to love her surviving daughter. Ted Cole is a semisuccessful writer and illustrator of disturbingly creepy children's novels. His womanizing habits prove he's "as deceitful as a damaged condom," but he remains the only stable figure in Ruth's life. The tempestuous tale fast-forwards to the year 1990 when Ruth's soaring writing career is faring far better than her lackluster love life. The final segment of the novel ends in 1995 when 41-year-old Ruth is ready to fall in love for the first time.

This profoundly absorbing story expresses the depths of misery and the healing power of love. Irving writes as a true storyteller, and Guidall executes the narrative with vigor and enthusiasm. (Running time: 24.5 hours, 14 cassettes) --Gina Kaysen

From Library Journal

"In the world according to Garp, we're all terminal cases." This sentence ends both Irving's comic and tragic novel and its wonderful audio adaptation, read disarmingly by Michael Prichard. We hear the familiar story of T.S. Garp; his mother, Jenny Fields; and Garp's wife, family, friends, and lovers. We also see Garp's efforts to establish himself as a serious author and his involvement in sexual politics. In contrast, Jenny's memoirs establish her as a feminist leader. This work is funny, sexual, serious, and sad. Prichard's narration adds a wonderful dimension to the story. Plus, Irving opens with a terrific introduction to mark the novel's 20th anniversary. This wise and unique tale is as fresh today as it was when first published in 1978. Obviously, a required purchase for all audio collections and required listening for all Irving fans. Irving's (A Son of the Circus, Audio Reviews, LJ 12/94) new novel echoes Garp through tracing the complicated life of novelist Ruth Cole. Divided into three parts, the book views Ruth's life and relationships at age four in 1958, age 36 in 1990, and age 41 in 1995. In the first part, Ruth's mother, devastated by the loss of two sons, leaves her daughter and womanizing husband after a brief love affair with a teenage boy. Part 2 focuses on Ruth's book tour in Europe while coming to grips with a poor love life and considering marriage to an older man. Part 3 traces Ruth's short widowhood and her marriage to the Dutch policeman who solves the murder to which she was a witness. Like Garp, this is a complex, sad, and quite compelling tale. Narrator George Guidall's reading adds to the texture of the story. And like the audio adaptation of Garp, this wonderful novel is a required purchase for all audio collections.?Stephen L. Hupp, Univ. of Pittsburgh at Johnstown Lib., PA
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Audio Cassette
  • Publisher: Random House Audio; Unabridged edition (May 5, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037540290X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375402906
  • Product Dimensions: 4.1 x 2.6 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (682 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,686,653 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Irving published his first novel, Setting Free the Bears, in 1968. He has been nominated for a National Book Award three times-winning once, in 1980, for the novel The World According to Garp. He also received an O. Henry Award, in 1981, for the short story "Interior Space." In 1992, Mr. Irving was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma. In 2000, he won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Cider House Rules-a film with seven Academy Award nominations. In 2001, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

For more information about the author, please visit

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Callaway on March 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
John Irving has once again written a story with fully realized, complex characters. Those who have read his previous books will find him delving into familiar themes: sexual coming of age, unspeakable tragedy, and the seedier side of European culture (in this case, Amsterdam's red light district). The results are mixed, with the beginning of the book far more interesting and satisfying than the end (small wonder the movie "The Door in the Floor" is based only on the first half of Irving's tome).

The story begins in the summer of 1958 on Long Island. Sixteen year old Eddie O'Hare takes a job working an assistant in the home of children's author/illustrator Ted Cole. It's a sad household with Ted and his wife, Marion, struggling to cope with the deaths of their two teenage sons years earlier. Marion is especially depressed and is unable to show any affection towards their young daughter, Ruth. She's also obsessed with the many pictures of her late sons that hang throughout the house. Ted dotes on Ruth, but is a flagrant womanizer, using his celebrity to attract mothers and their daughters into his studio to "pose" for him. Things become even more complicated when Marion has an affair with young Eddie.

Were the story to remain focused on the odd triangle of Marion, Ted and Eddie, it would stand alone as one of Irving's best novels. The relationships are complex and engaging, and Marion's inability to move on after the deaths of her sons is heart wrenching. Irving, however, chooses to make "A Widow for One Year" Ruth's story, following her into adulthood where she becomes successful as an author (as does Eddie on a smaller scale), but mostly unsuccessful in her personal relationships.
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55 of 61 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
I have read almost all of John Irving's novels and have been thoroughly entertained by all of them. This novel is no exception. It was over 500 pages long yet I was able to read it very quickly. Unlike some other readers, it kept my attention to the end. I agree with others, though, that it is no Owen Meany or Ciderhouse Rules. I thought Marion, Ted, and Eddie were wonderfully wrought, believeable, and interesting characters. However, I found the protagonist, Ruth, to be pretty superficial. The only understanding I had of her character was that she had wonderful, large breasts. (I may have liked the book even better if her breasts were not mentioned so frequently.) I thought her character was the most interesting at age four. Futhermore, I found it difficult to see what the point was to this novel. What kind of social commentary is he making? Big breasted women are superior? Tragedies really screw up families? Ruth's gradual understanding of her mother's reasons for leaving her seems obvious and forced. Although I have these criticisms, I do give the novel four stars for its entertainment value. The story line was creative and the foreshadowing actually helped me stay interested. It was a good read, although I would not consider it a great literary achievement.
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
John Irving has again given us a sprawling, multi-generational saga of personal heartache and how family members come to grips with tragedy. Like many of his other novels, the characters in Widow for A Year suffer extreme loss, and yet this novel does not kill off characters as abruptly and carelessly as some of Irving's former novels (like the plane crash in Hotel New Hampshire, or the devastating car crash in Garp).
Essentially the themes of the novel are grief and sex, not necessarily in that order. The novel begins with 4 year old Ruth Cole walking in on her mother, who is in bed with a teenage writer's assistant hired by her estranged husband Ted, a writer of cildren's books. The mother, Marion, is overwhelmed with grief from the loss of her teenage sons in a car accident that predated the action in the novel, and Irving skillfully fills in a few details about the crash for much of the book, until Ted describes the accident in devastating detail later.
The grief affects Ted and Marion in different ways, and while he goes on with his life and continues writing children's horror stories, Marion simply cannot handle life in the house she shared with her boys. Some of the most effective passages in the novel concern the multitude of framed photographs taken of the late Cole boys scattered on the walls of their house in the Hamptons, and the efforts of sister little Ruth, (who was born after her brothers' death), to reimagine the shots after they are removed by her mom.
Marion ultimately becomes a strangely unsympathetic character, and her forced reappearance toward the end of the novel seems forced and contrived.
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39 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Hendry VINE VOICE on December 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
A Widow for One Year has got to be my favorite John Irving novel. Many of his others, while I have enjoyed them, have put me off a little because the characters and/or the plot is a bit over the top, just too quirky for me. Widow, while imaginative and entertaining, never gets to that too much stage. It's a big novel, spanning about 40 years and has a satisfying, yet never hokey or corny ending. The characters, of course, are a bit quirky in their way, but their quirkiness is somehow more believable than in other Irving novels. The story is a lot of fun, and, because most of the characters are writers, allows Irving to explain and comment on the writing process. I felt at some times he was answering his own critics while discussing the criticism of his character-writers. He has fun with the whole thing, though, and never takes it too seriously, which is part of what makes this novel so enjoyable. Widow is really a human story about loss and how far some of us will go for love. Enjoy.
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