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A Widow's Story
Cover of A Widow's Story
A Widow's Story
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Unlike anything Joyce Carol Oates has written before, A Widow's Story is the universally acclaimed author's poignant, intimate memoir about the unexpected death of Raymond Smith, her husband of forty-six years, and its wrenching, surprising aftermath. A recent recipient of National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, Oates, whose novels (Blonde, The Gravedigger's Daughter, Little Bird of Heaven, etc.) rank among the very finest in contemporary American fiction, offers an achingly personal story of love and loss. A Widow's Story is a literary memoir on a par with The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion and Calvin Trillin's About Alice.

Unlike anything Joyce Carol Oates has written before, A Widow's Story is the universally acclaimed author's poignant, intimate memoir about the unexpected death of Raymond Smith, her husband of forty-six years, and its wrenching, surprising aftermath. A recent recipient of National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, Oates, whose novels (Blonde, The Gravedigger's Daughter, Little Bird of Heaven, etc.) rank among the very finest in contemporary American fiction, offers an achingly personal story of love and loss. A Widow's Story is a literary memoir on a par with The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion and Calvin Trillin's About Alice.

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About the Author-
  • Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Medal of Humanities, the National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Book Award, and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction, and has been several times nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including the national bestsellers We Were the Mulvaneys, Blonde, which was nominated for the National Book Award, and the New York Times bestseller The Falls, which won the 2005 Prix Femina. Her most recent novel is A Book of American Martyrs. 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.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    December 20, 2010
    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.

  • Entertainment Weekly "In a narrative as searing as the best of her fiction, Oates describes the aftermath of her husband Ray's unexpected death from pneumonia...It's the painful, scorchingly angry journey of a woman struggling to live in a house "from which meaning has departed, like air leaking from a balloon."
  • New York Times Book Review "...A cascade-of-consciousness that will mostly mesmerize you and surely move you...a book more painfully self-revelatory than anything Oates the fiction writer or critic has ever dared to produce."
  • Washington Post "...As enthralling as it is painful...a searing account...It is characteristic of Oates's superb balancing of the intellectual and the emotional that she enables a reader to experience Smith's death in the dramatic way she herself did."
  • Wall Street Journal "Flourishes of black humor punctuate the drumbeat of grief, setting the book apart from works such as Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking."
  • National Public Radio "A brave, dark but slyly mordant memoir...Oates rages at the dying of the light of her life in this unflinching, generous portrait of the terror of emptiness."
  • Daily Beast "The novelist and essayist pens her most intimate book about the death of her husband of 46 years. Judging by the excerpt in The New Yorker Oates' memoir will join Antonia Fraser and Joan Didion on the shelf of essential works on loss."
  • Minneapolis Star Tribune "Oates' raw emotion lifts the veil of the enormity of grief that most widows, and widowers, must feel at the loss of their partners in a way that will come as a shock to some and a relief to others."
  • Denver Post "A Widow's Story is unlike anything Oates has written before...a poignant and raw examination of the obsessiveness and self-indulgence of grief..."
  • Detroit News "A harrowing tale..."
  • Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "...Astonishingly candid...[Oates's] suffering gushes forth in page after page of detailed prose, snatches of sentences, reportorial and intuitive, emotional and reflective...Oates set out to write a widow's handbook. What she has accomplished is a story of a marriage."
  • Cleveland Plain Dealer "Reads like a rending of garments..."
  • Dallas Morning News "A vivid and urgent memoir..."
  • Kansas City Star "Oates writes movingly about the terror, depression and suicidal ruminations that dominated her existence in the months after Smith's death...it's impossible to be unmoved by Oates' "Story," by the degree to which she sees her husband everywhere she looks, as she finds beauty in the elusive notion of renewal."
  • Providence Journal "This is a brave, haunting, heart-rending book, and it will never let you go."
  • Richmond Times-Dispatch "Affecting...perfectly pitched prose..."
  • Financial Times "Joyce Carol Oates writes like a force of nature, and a story emerges, as if organically, from the physicality of her grief. There are few secrets and no lies, only insights into the inner world of her partner of 50 years."
  • Charleston Post & Courier "Widowhood for Oates is a rough, disfiguring condition, one that mocks past happiness. Words are her salvation. "A Widow's Story" is a brave book that carries its author through the contortions of doubt and despair, on a pilgrimage back to life."
  • Seattle Weekly "Packed with moments of...frankness..."
  • The Economist "An affecting portrait of anguish."
  • New York Review of Books "Oates excellently conveys the disconnect between the inwardly chaotic self and the outwardly functioning person..."
  • Publishers Weekly "[Oates] shines a bright light in every corner in her soul-searing memoir of widowhood."
  • Kirkus Reviews "A wildly unhinged, deeply intimate look at the eminent author's "derangement of Widowhood."...Oates writes with gut-wrenching honesty and spares no one in ripping the illusions off the face of death...Oates continues to keep her...
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