Title: A Widow’s Story
Author: Joyce Carol Oates
Publication Date: February 15, 2011
Hardcover: 432 pages
In a work unlike anything she’s written before, National Book Award winner Joyce Carol Oates unveils a poignant, intimate memoir about the unexpected death of her husband of forty-six years and its wrenching, surprising aftermath.
“My husband died, my life collapsed.”
On a February morning in 2008, Joyce Carol Oates drove her ailing husband, Raymond Smith, to the emergency room of the Princeton Medical Center where he was diagnosed with pneumonia. Both Joyce and Ray expected him to be released in a day or two. But in less than a week, even as Joyce was preparing for his discharge, Ray died from a virulent hospital-acquired infection, and Joyce was suddenly faced—totally unprepared—with the stunning reality of widowhood.
A Widow’s Story illuminates one woman’s struggle to comprehend a life without the partnership that had sustained and defined her for nearly half a century. As never before, Joyce Carol Oates shares the derangement of denial, the anguish of loss, the disorientation of the survivor amid a nightmare of “death-duties,” and the solace of friendship. She writes unflinchingly of the experience of grief—the almost unbearable suspense of the hospital vigil, the treacherous “pools” of memory that surround us, the vocabulary of illness, the absurdities of commercialized forms of mourning. Here is a frank acknowledgment of the widow’s desperation—only gradually yielding to the recognition that “this is my life now.”
Enlivened by the piercing vision, acute perception, and mordant humor that are the hallmarks of the work of Joyce Carol Oates, this moving tale of life and death, love and grief, offers a candid, never-before-glimpsed view of the acclaimed author and fiercely private woman.
Transformative, powerful, lyrical and bittersweet, A Widow’s Story by Joyce Carol Oates is a memoir of Oates’ life when her husband of 48 years is hospitalised for what appears to be a routine case of pneumonia. The reader first hears the voice of Oates as she speaks as the Widow-to-Be, where she describes the thought process, denial, and the rapidity of time. This memoir is extremely painful to read due to Oates’ raw, emotional, and intense prose, yet this is a book that should be read by those who have suffered loss and to better understand what someone who is going through a loss is truly experiencing. Oates gives life to the feelings of suddenly going from being partnered to being utterly alone, fragmented, disjointed. A Widow’s Story is unlike Oates’ other works and yet it is evocative, profound, and one that will lift the reader up and bring the reader to tears. Quite honestly, the thought of losing my husband by any means is my worst fear, I was not certain if I would be able to get through A Widow’s Story as Oates puts into words my worst fears and then beyond what I could imagine. For those who think as I did, that this would be too painful a book to read, please read it. A Widow’s Story offers extraordinary insight that is not often found in memoirs of loss, Oates delves deeply into her emotions and extends her feelings to the readers. I am extremely grateful I was given A Widow’s Story to read and while I hope never to experience the pain Oates suffered at the loss of her husband, Raymond Smith, I do know people going through loss and at least have a clearer insight into what they are going through. A loss of this magnitude is not as simple as the steps of grief. I cannot praise this memoir enough yet I will warn it is neither an easy book to read nor a quick read, however one that should be read. I recommend A Widow’s Story to all readers.
Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including the national bestsellers We Were the Mulvaneys and Blonde (a finalist for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize), and the New York Times bestsellers The Falls (winner of the 2005 Prix Femina Etranger) and The Gravedigger’s Daughter. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978. In 2003 she received the Common Wealth Award for Distinguished Service in Literature and The Kenyon Review Award for Literary Achievement, and in 2006 she received the Chicago Tribune Lifetime Achievement Award.
To learn more about Joyce Carol Oates and her works look here.
I received a complimentary ARC of A Widow’s Story by Joyce Carol Oates from Ecco to review. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned novel.