John Irving is a master at his craft. Therefore, I will never, ever doubt an interest in his books again. A Widow for One Year sat on my shelf for years. I had read two of Irving’s previous books and enjoyed them, but something about this one made me stay away. The premise isn’t something that would normally make me rush out and want to read it. A couple in the 1950’s, lose their two teenage sons in a tragic car accident. They have another child, this time a girl. The mother, Marion, can’t face being a mother again, and the father, Ted, is a philandering drunk, rather than a supportive husband. Sounds like a book that’s full of psychological head games. Definitely not for me.
And while that is the backdrop, it’s not the story. This tale is about the daughter, Ruth, and while her life is certainly messed-up because of events that happened before she was even born, the events that happen after her birth are fascinating – albeit in a watching a car wreck kind of way. Irving not only weaves a narrative that I found impossible to put down, his writing was a work of art. He understands the power of the written word and how a seemingly simple line can weave a thread throughout a story and take it to a higher place. And I must add this: the last line of A Widow For One Year is the best final line of any book, ever. I’m going to have to put John Irving on my favorite authors list now.
4 1/2 stars (out of 5)
Published in 1998