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A Widow's Walk: A Memoir of 9/11 Hardcover – August 30, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. September 11, 2001, was the eighth anniversary of Fontana's wedding to firefighter Dave;they had plans for a night on the town;and the second day of kindergarten for their son, Aidan. Dave's last call to her was from the World Trade Tower site after the first plane crashed; he promised to call back in 20 minutes. "This is the worst day of my life," he said. The first chapters of this book follow the grim days of waiting and hoping almost hour by hour, then chronicle the first few of an endless succession of wakes and funerals. Nothing about this widowhood was normal, including its morbid celebrity, the attention of Mayor Giuliani and Senator Clinton and the sometimes predatory media, and the gifts and perks showered on the families. Fontana quickly became a leader in the sisterhood of grieving women (Dave's Brooklyn company, Squad 1, lost 12 men) and is now the president of the 9/11 Widows and Victims' Family Association. Her book is far more personal than political, however, and Fontana's keen eye and ear make for an absorbing account of the first year of coping with historic tragedy. Trained as a comedian and actress, she has been writing skits and monologues since graduating from the High School of Performing Arts, and her observations are colorful, often funny and sometimes merciless. With its built-in drama and pathos and excellent pacing, this book should bring Fontana to the attention of talk shows nationwide.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The author's husband, a firefighter, died at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. It was their eighth wedding anniversary. Fontana, a playwright and performer, suddenly became a single mother to a kindergarten--age little boy. There have been enough books written about or influenced by 9/11 to fill a large library; but this memoir shows there are still new things left to say about the event. Fontana's own story is one of almost unbearable grief, slow recovery, and, ultimately, personal growth. She is a graceful writer, and the book is emotional without being maudlin. It is also, in places, very funny, and that may be the author's most important message: no matter what happens to us in life, we must find something to laugh about. It's the only way, she says, to overcome tragedy. A worthy addition to the 9/11 shelf. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (August 30, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743246241
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743246248
  • Product Dimensions: 9.9 x 6.5 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,766,724 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

With the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I had read many new books about that horrible day.
J. Rudolph
She is a very talented writer, and her story is tender and poignant: a beautiful tale of deep love between a man and wife, and tragic early death.
While I was reading her book, I could feel myself in her shoes, it was like I was living her life.
Amanda Edwards

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Angelo J. Guglielmo Jr. on August 30, 2005
Format: Hardcover
From the opening moments of this amazing book, I was taken deep into the extraordinary and life-defining days of the beautiful and sweeping romance of Marian and her husband of 17 years, Dave.

"A Widow's Walk" is, at its core, a story of how a family survives long after the unexpected happens. And that unexpected was September 11, 2001. When the simple, familiar euphoria of everyday life is shattered and the world turns upside down.

With her distinctive sense of irony (and humor), Marian struggles with the insatiable need to collapse from the impact of overwhelming emotions but is forced to remain engaged in motherhood and provide their son, Aidan, with a safe, nurturing and consistent life in the midst of extreme, significant chaos.

It is also about how activity as a response for devestation leads to understanding and hope. Fontana forces herself in motion by sheer will and courage and the rewards (although never enough to bring Dave back home) are transformative and considerable--they redefine the family.

Marian and the other widows must endure one funeral after another after ANOTHER but, ultimately, join together and memorialize their husbands by taking on the rough city. And this is NY: a metropolis that will rely on firefighters in a time of crisis but make them beg and grovel for the most miniscule increases in salary.

With a keen eye for strategy and knowing that this moment in history can help instigate change in the system (you really CAN fight City Hall), Marian and the brave people of her world move forward with inspiring impact.

"A Widow's Walk" shows that true love lives on even in the cruel way that life moves us forward. And that journey is never the way it is in the movies: it is often travelled with pitfalls and self-doubt, guilt and fear but, in the end, esteem and the love that remains deep inside a heart of steel.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Neil Donahue on September 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
To be honest, I am generally not a fan of memoirs of this type. I mean yes this is a woman who suffered a profound tragedy but does this mean she can write? Well, after devouring it's nearly 450 pages in a couple of sittings, I think it can be said, that Marian Fontana is a writer. A damn good one. She deserves not only to have her story told but to tell it herself. This is both an honest and humorous look at the grieving process as well as a fascinating piece of history. Fontana's account of how she and her some of her fellow widows organized and stood up not only for 911 victims and their families, but for firemen themselves, gives us an inside look at just how these men who perform the most dangerous and lauded of work, are basically treated like crap. There is something very special about this book and just how close it puts you to the incredilby profound grief that enveloped Ms. Fontana's life. Yet, I never really felt sorry for her because I don't think she allows the reader to do that. She is a strong person yet she admits her flaws, thus making her even stronger. This is a must read for anyone interested in 9-11 as well as anyone interested in grief, love and loss.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By B. A Varkentine on September 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is a book written from the deepest sadness imaginable, but while it is terribly moving, it is not sad.

Marian Fontana has filled A Widow's Walk with her life and love for her husband, Dave. So much so that you end up wishing you could have known them together.

But of course, Dave was a firefighter who she lost on 9/11, a date which also happened to be their anniversary. Nice touch, god.

For those of us who have wondered: What would we do? Fontana takes us through the year that followed with the skill of a novelist, showing us the amazing network of support that she found in the lives she and her husband had touched.

Compulsively readable and admirably non-political (for the most part), it is as fine a tribute as I can imagine for a father and a husband.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Bowes on September 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I originally bought this book for the sole reason that Marian and i were childhood friends who grew up on the same street together in Staten Island. I knew of Dave's death shortly after 9/11 and kept Marian and her family in my thoughts daily.

I knew Marian was gifted but was totally unprepared for how much this book would touch me and change my life. I now view the people i love in a different way.

Her book was beautiful and so well written. I felt like i can somewhat understand what all of these brave people went through both firefighters and their families, in the wake of 9/11.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By CaterpillarGirl VINE VOICE on June 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I agree with some of the other reviewers on here, the first half of this book was an amazing window into Marian's soul, her grief and sense of humor and love for her family and life comes through. The stories about her going to the many many wakes and funerals for fellow fireman both brought a tear to my eye and made me laugh out loud. The second half got too political, and lost whatever momentum she had built up in the beginning. It was as if she had just thought "well I have to make the book longer so I am going to put a bunch of trivial stuff and run on about the mayor and Hillary and other people no one cares about." I wanted to hear more about her relentless passion to carry on her husbands and his coworker's legacy, and how as a widow she dealt with her son and Dave's family. We all know what went on after 9/11 on the news, but behind closed doors is where we as Americans need to see how the spirit of faith and love and perseverance lives on. I would recommend this book to anyone, but warn them that it gets bogged down in the middle so be wary.
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