Simply Reading: A Widow’s Story

A Widow’s Story: A Memoir

by Joyce Carol Oates

Perhaps I shouldn’t be reading this book now, not at this particular time when I’m far away from my husband, when I am in fact feeling guilty for being here in the sunshine enjoying myself while he works diligently at home in the bitter cold of this everlasting winter.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be reading this book now, where pain and loss are etched into every word like deep scratches on glass, where The Widow’s torment is so palpable it turns my saliva to salt.

You know you can end this at any time.  Your ridiculous trash-soul.  Why should you outlive your husband?  If you love him as you claim?  Don’t you think that everyone is waiting for you to die, to end this folly?  Outliving your husband is a low vile vulgar thing and you do not deserve to live an hour longer, you are the very trash you need to haul away.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be reading this book now, when I have been for the last months, feeling- dare I say it? – itchy around the edges of my married life, having to suppress an occasional desire to peer around the outside of this 35 year old curtain pulled so tightly around my life.

The Widow has entered the stage of primitive thinking in which she imagines that some small, trivial gesture of hers might have meaning in relationship to her husband’s death.  As if being “good” – “responsible” – she might undo her personal catastrophe.  She will come slowly to realize that there is nothing to be done now. Her husband has died, he has gone and is not coming back.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be reading this book now.

Then again, perhaps I should.


10 thoughts on “Simply Reading: A Widow’s Story

  1. I have this one on my stack, and I’m literally panting to read it. Not that I can relate to being a widow—I’ve only been divorced a few times…LOL

    But sometimes, even when you want out of a marriage, you do mourn the loss of it. Any of the details of a loss can be gathered together and remind us of what once was…and is no more.

    I love the way you shared your thoughts amongst the excerpts.

  2. I’ve heard so much about this book around the blogosphere. But I do think you should be reading it – whatever you suppress comes back to bite you in ever more ferocious ways. Books provide such a safe space to think about everything, and from all possible angles. It’s one of their greatest assets.

  3. I just finished listening to an audio production Joyce Carol Oates’ A Fair Maiden. The way she writes is both engaging and haunting at the same time, so I’d be interested to read this one and see how she tackles this tough subject, particularly as it seems to be quite a personal one as well.

  4. This is the kind of post that reminds me why good literary blogging has become such an important part of my reading these days. You take a thought-provoking book written by a wonderful author, but then you weave in just a few glinting threads of personal insight that pull everything together in an empathetic way. So good.

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