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Publisher's Summary

In a work unlike anything she's written before, National Book Award-winner Joyce Carol Oates unveils a poignant, intimate memoir about the unexpected death of her husband of 46 years and its wrenching, surprising aftermath.
"My husband died, my life collapsed." On a February morning in 2008, Joyce Carol Oates drove her ailing husband, Raymond Smith, to the emergency room of the Princeton Medical Center, where he was diagnosed with pneumonia. Both Joyce and Ray expected him to be released in a day or two. But in less than a week, even as Joyce was preparing for his discharge, Ray died from a virulent hospital-acquired infection, and Joyce was suddenly faced - totally unprepared - with the stunning reality of widowhood.
A Widow's Story illuminates one woman's struggle to comprehend a life without the partnership that had sustained and defined her for nearly half a century. As never before, Joyce Carol Oates shares the derangement of denial, the anguish of loss, the disorientation of the survivor amid a nightmare of "death-duties", and the solace of friendship. She writes unflinchingly of the experience of grief - the almost unbearable suspense of the hospital vigil, the treacherous "pools" of memory that surround us, the vocabulary of illness, the absurdities of commercialized forms of mourning. Here is a frank acknowledgment of the widow's desperation, only gradually yielding to the recognition that "this is my life now."
Enlivened by the piercing vision, acute perception, and mordant humor that are the hallmarks of the work of Joyce Carol Oates, this moving tale of life and death, love and grief, offers a candid, never-before-glimpsed view of the acclaimed author and fiercely private woman.
©2011 The Ontario Review, Inc. (P)2011 HarperCollins Publishers
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Pamela Harvey on 02-18-11


Talk about not wanting to turn the car audio player off...this is a minute-by-minute account, not only of a bereavement and of a death, but of a life as lived in each present moment. I'll never know why it is that some writers, and well-known, respected ones at that, can snooze me off with their painstaking detail (oh just get on with it will you?), and someone like Oates can mesmerize me, stun me with literary pleasure with her delicately nuanced accounts of the huge range of emotions encountered by one person, as they happen, moment by moment.

I am equally amazed at this "warts and all" presentation of Oates' self-doubts and insecurities, her lack of self-belief, and the meaninglessness to her of all her considerable accomplishments compared to the loss of her husband and soul-mate. That she can get this all down without appearing even mildly self-absorbed is another feat that impresses me.


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42 of 44 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Doggy Bird on 07-31-11

Very moving book, VERY well read, hopeful end

Sometimes I get into weird moods and can't move on to a new book. That happened to me recently, and I had an instinct that the raw emotions of Joyce Carol Oates' memoir of her experience of losing her husband would stun me out of my own self absorption. I was right. The book is very painful to hear but the reader is excellent and portrays well the voice of Joyce Carol Oates as I imagine her to be. The book is very good at communicating the abrupt end of a comfortable and happy life without any sticky sentimentalism or self pity. It is very moving and yet has not caused even weepy me any tears. I am very glad I chose to read it.

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8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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