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The Widower's Tale by Julia Glass

The Widower's Tale (2010)

by Julia Glass

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7705118,560 (3.68)33
Enjoying an active but lonely rural life, seventy-year-old Percy allows a progressive preschool to move into his barn and transform his quiet home into a lively, youthful community that compels him to reexamine the choices he made after his wife's death.



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The title of The Widower's Tale is a bit deceptive, because it is three stories rolled into one novel. As well as the widower's story, it is also the tale of Robert, the widower's grandson and the tale of Celestino, a gardener who works for the widower's next door neighbor. Other characters are also explored in the book, but it is primarily from the point of view of these three we see the world.

The widower is Percy Darling, a sixty-nine year old man who lost his wife when they were in their late thirties. He hasn't dated anyone since then, which might be due to a sense of guilt. Although he wasn't responsible for his wife's death there were some issues on the day she died. Percy starts seeing Sarah, a fifty-one year-old artist who works with stained-glass. The age difference isn't much of an issue, but the difference in the way they look at the world is.

Robert, Percy's grandson, has a roommate, Turo, who is involved in environmental activism, expressed through pranks some people see as vandalism. Robert gets sucked into Turo's activities and the story goes on from there.

Meanwhile, Celestino's life is also explored. He is an immigrant from Guatemala who came to America when a professor at Harvard noticed his potential. But a mixture of bad luck, bad decisions, and a romantic nature forced Celestino to run off and turn to manual labor for his income.

All three of these stories read well. I love the way the narratives touch each other throughout the book. I was also impressed with the way Julia Glass changes her style depending on whose point of view she's writing. Percy is a retired librarian and thinks in an scholarly style. The language in the Robert and Celestino sections is straight forward and reads faster.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul, White Horse Regressions, Hopatcong Vision Quest, and Under a Warped Cross. ( )
  SteveLindahl | Mar 27, 2019 |
quick easy read that I will forget about very quickly. ( )
  Rdra1962 | Aug 1, 2018 |
It started out pretty good, but I got bored. When the 11th CD in the set had a scratch that made it unplayable, I never bothered to get another copy from the library. Obviously, I didn't care what happened. ( )
  Thebrownbookloft | Jun 29, 2018 |
I have to admit, I can't force myself to finish this. It was pretty good for about half the book, but I kept waiting for the plot to begin -- and it never did. Eventually I just got bored and set it aside.
  dorie.craig | Jun 22, 2017 |
Lots of things going on. Lots of people I could easily relate to. How's it going to turn out for Percy and for the others in the story? I love Percy's educated diction. ( )
  jack2410 | Feb 2, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
Each strand of this narrative macramé is surprisingly supple, offering a convincing illusion of lives roundly lived. The effect is one of remarkable expansiveness, in which a rather modest small-town story is able to incorporate all kinds of contemporary social issues, including illegal immigration, eco-terrorism, health-care coverage, divorce and gay marriage....The older characters sometimes lapse into "On Golden Pond" parodies, and Glass gets the lively, profane patter of college students entirely wrong.

Even so, it's wonderful to see Glass recover the unforced flow of her first two novels, a rhythm that convincingly imitates the shifting fortunes and allegiances of daily life. Once again, she's proved to be a master of milieu, an old French word that means "middle place" -- the place in which all her characters, young and old, continue to engage with the world and where she, a novelist in mid-career, keeps refining their stories.
Reviewers have praised "The Widower’s Tale" for the author’s satiric wit, her ability to write from male perspectives, and for her talents in conveying a sense of place, which may have arisen from Glass’s early training as an artist. Los Angeles Times reviewer Helen McAlpin comments that humor does not mean Glass has become “all bounce and no bite,” noting that "The Widower’s Tale" takes on concerns from her previous novels, including breast cancer; mortality; mourning; rivalry between sisters; romantic relationships, both gay and straight; as well illegal immigration, gay marriage, and cultural decline.
This energized, good-humored novel, Julia Glass’s fourth, smashes through that illusion, beginning as satire, becoming stealthily suspenseful and ending up with a satisfyingly cleareyed and compassionate view of American entitlement and its fallout.
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In the way that a gambler who has lost can easily imagine himself again in possession of his money, thinking how false, how undeserved was the process that took it from him, so he sometimes found himself unwilling to believe what had happened, or certain that his marriage would somehow be found again.  So much of it was still in existence.

James Salter, Light Years
For my parents
my three Jewish mothers
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Why, thank you.
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