Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $4.50 shipping
A Widow's Story: A Memoir Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 15, 2011
"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Learn more
Frequently bought together
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
From Publishers Weekly
Early one morning in February 2008, Oates drove her husband, Raymond Smith, to the Princeton Medical Center where he was admitted with pneumonia. There, he developed a virulent opportunistic infection and died just one week later. Suddenly and unexpectedly alone, Oates staggered through her days and nights trying desperately just to survive Smith's death and the terrifying loneliness that his death brought. In her typically probing fashion, Oates navigates her way through the choppy waters of widowhood, at first refusing to accept her new identity as a widow. She wonders if there is a perspective from which the widow's grief is sheer vanity, this pretense that one's loss is so very special that there has never been a loss quite like it. In the end, Oates finds meaning, much like many of Tolstoy's characters, in the small acts that make up and sustain ordinary life. When she finds an earring she thought she'd lost in a garbage can that raccoons have overturned, she reflects, "If I have lost the meaning of my life, and the love of my life, I might still find small treasured things amid the spilled and pilfered trash." At times overly self-conscious, Oates nevertheless shines a bright light in every corner in her soul-searing memoir of widowhood. (Feb.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* Brutal violence and catastrophic loss are often the subjects of Oates’ powerful novels and stories. But as she reveals in this galvanizing memoir, her creative inferno was sequestered from her joyful life with her husband, Raymond Smith. A revered editor and publisher who did not read her fiction, Smith kept their household humming during their 48-year marriage. After his shocking death from a “secondary infection” while hospitalized with pneumonia, Oates found herself in the grip of a relentless waking nightmare. She recounts this horrific “siege” of grief with her signature perception, specificity, and intensity, from epic insomnia and terrifying hallucinations to the torment of “death-duties,” painful recognitions of confidences unshared and secrets harbored, and a chilling evaporation of meaning. But Oates also rallies to offer droll advice on how to be a “good widow” and describes her struggles with mountains of lavish “sympathy gifts” and the attendant trash with a “widow’s slapstick-comedy.” In a stunning extension of the compelling disclosures found in The Journal of Joyce Carol Oates, 1973–1982 (2007), protean and unflinching Oates has created an illuminating portrait of a marriage, a searing confrontation with death, an extraordinarily forthright chronicle of mourning, and a profound “pilgrimage” from chaos to coherence. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The incomparable, best-selling Oates fascinates readers, and her memoir of sudden widowhood will have an impact similar to Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking (2005). --Donna Seaman
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Joyce Carol Oates gives her sorrow words in A Widow's Story: A Memoir, which chronicles the death of her longtime husband, Ontario Review editor, Ray Smith, and the first year of Oates' widowhood.
"Widowhood is the punishment for having been a wife," Oates writes in this powerful and poignant memoir.
If life were fair, couples that have been married for decades (Oates and Smith were together for 47 years and 25 days, Oates frequently points out) should be allowed to die together.
But life is anything but fair, and it's the job of survivors to carry on after the loss of a loved one, no mater how impossible that may seem, as Oates observes:
"Losing a spouse of 47 years is like losing a part of yourself-- the most valuable part. What is left behind seems so depleted, broken ... But this determination to manage--to cope--to do as much unassisted as possible-- is the widow's prerogative."
Losing a spouse can drain life of flavor and meaning, leaving the survivor a shell of themselves, as Oates notes:
"As a widow I will be reduced to a world of things. And these things retain but the faintest glimmer of their original identity and meaning as in a dead and desiccated husk of something once organic there might be discerned a glimmer of its original identity and meaning."
Oates also examines the frailty of life and the delicate balance of bio-chemistry that makes us human:
Harrowing to think that our identities-- the selves people believe they recognize in us: our "personalities"-- are a matter of oxygen, water and food and sleep-- deprived of just one of these our physical beings begin to alter almost immediately-- soon, to others we are no longer "ourselves"-- and yet, who else are we?
It's impossible not to compare Oates' A Widow's Story to Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking. Both women are literary powerhouses examining the depths of grief following the death of their husbands. Oates subtlety references Didion's work, and her own "magical thinking" during her husband's short illness and death. Oates and Didion both imagine their husbands "just coming home," putting an end to the endless nightmare of widowhood. Magical thinking is a nice way of saying delusional or wishful thinking.
Widowhood forces a kind of exile, an otherness, as the widow moves through day-to-day life like a ghost.
"I could be a paraplegic observing dancers-- it isn't even envy I feel for them, almost a kind of disbelief, they are so utterly different from me, and so oblivious."
And a life devoid of meaning, isn't really a life at all, Oates says:
"To be human is to live with meaning. To live without meaning is to live sub-humanly."
"Giving sorrow words" is both painful and healing, and perhaps the only way back to the "land of the living" for a writer, as Oates notes in a letter to a fellow author.
"It's difficult to write when there's no joy. (I haven't gotten started again, myself.) Yet it's our only way out. Isn't it?"
Though deeply steeped in sorrow, The Widow's Story: A Memoir is ultimately a story of survival and rebirth. Oates knows whom to thank for helping her through the early days of widowhood.
"The blunt truth is: I would (very likely) not be alive except for my friends."
She also finds recovery and reconnection by embracing her late husband's favorite hobby: gardening:
"A gardener is one for whom the prospect of the future is not threatening but happy."
In the end, Oates finds the strength to carry on, even if it's a "half-life" frequently filled with sorrow and loss.
"This is my life now. Absurd, but unpredictable. Not absurd because unpredictable but unpredictable because absurd. If I have lost the meaning of my life, and the love of my life, I might still find small treasured things amid the spilled and pilfered trash."
We can all appreciate the world forged from Oates' personal pain, a world where life is simultaneously absurd, unpredictable and incredibility precious.
Most recent customer reviews
It has comforted me greatly.
So grateful to the author.