Review #1

5 01 2009

My first book in 2009 happened to be a Christmas present that I finished just yesterday. I have long been a fan of John Irving and was gifted a copy of A Widow for One Year.

First the synopsis:

As with most Irving novels, it is written in several parts and covers a span of many years. A Widow for One Year is written in three parts, each covering a different section of time.

The story begins in 1958. Ruth Cole is 4-years old, living with her parents in Long Island during their trial separation. Her father Ted is a children’s book writer who hires Eddie, a 16-year-old boy, to be a writer’s assistant for the summer. Ruth’s mother Marion is a tortured character who has been unable to move past a tragic car accident that killed her sons four years before.

Eddie finds quickly that his job as a writer’s assistant leaves much to be desired as he is mostly answering fan mail and running errands. It is in Marion that he finds his summer begin to be more interesting. Eddie and Marion become lovers and they learn more about themselves in their few months together than they ever really learn about each other. It is learned that Ted has a habit of chasing after unhappy, young mothers; and much of his summer is involved with women than it is writing.

At the end of summer Marion leaves taking only the photographs of her dead sons. Her only instructions to Ted is to tell him to keep his drinking to a minimum. She leaves nothing to Eddie, save the sweater that he first saw her in.

The second part of the book is in 1990 and about Ruth, now grown and a writer in her own right. She is at a crossroads in her personal life and as she is on a book tour, she is trying to make a few decisions.While on tour she starts research in the Red Light District where she witnesses something that changes her. She returns home with decisions made and a new turn of life to live.

Part three finds Ruth at 41. She has been recently widowed and left with her young son. The book she began in Amsterdam is finally published and it brings someone new into her life. Time has also changed things and brings a few other people back into the picture.

Now as for my thoughts on the book:

I adore John Irving. I find his books to be about real characters. These characters could be real people. Marion could have been the perfect mother until her sons were taken away and unable to be even a mediocre mother to the daughter she tried to replace them with. Ted could have just been a man-whore, who failed to even try to conceal it once Marion was so disinterested in anything other than their sons’ memories. Even Eddie could simply be an average boy that happens to be attracted to more mature women.

Ruth intrigues me. As a woman she is conflicted. She is unsure of what she wants in her relationships. She sees the double standard between men and women where sex is concerned. She is also unsure as to whether she wants marriage and a family. She sees it as something that she should want, but something that she is also afraid of. Her mother leaving her at the age of four left her feeling as if her mother couldn’t love her, maybe she couldn’t love a child either.

I recommend for anyone to read A Widow for One Year. For me it was a quick read that did not leave the feeling of having wasted my time. This was a book of actual substance. Far from a ‘throwaway’ book, it is one to put on the bookshelf for many reads to come.