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Spend Time With Interesting Characters,
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This review is from: The Widower's Tale: A Novel (Hardcover)I remember attending a reading at Wordsworth Bookstore, a onetime beloved icon of Harvard Square and the author of the book (the author's name escapes me) was asked how she selected the books she read. Her answer was pretty straightforward and probably applies to all of us. She read the book jacket and determined if she wanted to spend an hour or two each night with the characters. If she didn't, she wouldn't read the book. Her words came back to me as I read Julia Glass' THE WIDOWER'S TALE because the desire to spend time with the characters is the best reason to read this book.
The main character is Percy Darling, a retired librarian who spent most of his career at Harvard University. His personality is heartwarming but is mixed with equal parts of curmudgeon snob, intellectual, and aloofness but he's able to keep all these traits in check by not taking himself too seriously. His observations can be acerbic at times, but always humorous. In the novel there is a swirl of events in his life, a life that for many years has been rather routine. Changes begin when rents his vacant barn to a nursery school which brings all kinds of people to his property and subsequently into his life. He's navigating somewhat challenging relationships with his two grown daughters, he finds love after many years of being widowed, and there are some surprising changes in the life of his beloved grandson Robert. Glass is able to get inside of Percy's head and readers feel a deep connection with him.
Glass alternates between first person and third person narrative in the novel. When we hear from Percy's point of view, it is always first person. In the third person chapters, we hear the story told from the perspective of the grandson Robert, Ira (a teacher t the nursery school), and Celestino (a landscaper who works for a company hired by Percy and his neighbors).The third person narratives shed light on Percy and his background so they are not out of place, but at times they do drag a bit. Glass also knows her geography. While the major towns in the novel are fictitious, her descriptions of Cambridge and the surrounding areas are very accurate. She accurately depicts the personalities of the people who populate this area.
So if I take the advice of the author whose name escapes me but suggested selecting a book based on time spent with characters, does THE WIDOWER'S TALE meet the criteria? Yes. Readers will enjoy spending time Percy, his family and friends. In some cases felt I knew the people and other readers probably will too. As a matter of fact I was in Harvard Square not too long ago, steps away from the famous Widener library where Percy spent his career, hoping I'd meet him, knowing I wouldn't, but certain there'd be a Percy or two in the vicinity.