A Widow for One Year

From The World According to Garp to The Cider House Rules, John Irving’s ability to repeat and reiterate his love of subplots, all-boys academies and wrestling into intensely interesting novels defies tedium. A Widow for One Year, newly released in paperback, incorporates all of his favorite themes with new bends and twists and a lighter, fizzier style. Widow is just as famously long and self-reflective as his other classics yet somehow less dense and quicker to read.

The tale starts with 16-year old Eddie O’Hare from the nearby boys’ academy and his first summer job as the assistant to a children’s book writer, Ted Cole. Things go awry when he has a love affair with Cole’s wife Marion, an affair choreographed by Cole so that he would have an excuse to leave her. When the affair terminates instead by Marion’s leaving, all are shattered, including the Coles’ daughter Ruth.

Thirty years later, the narrative is taken up by Ruth, who now also makes her living as a writer. Conflict arises as she contemplates marrying her editor, reuniting with O’Hare to discuss her long-lost mother, and whether she will ever beat her father in a squash game. Irving revisits another theme when he sends Ruth to Amsterdam as part of a book signing tour, giving the reader another glimpse into the older world of Europe he has found influential enough to incorporate in most of his novels.

In the end, Widow comes full circle, bringing unexpected events to Eddie’s and Ruth’s stories by a creatively reworking of Irving’s perinneal themes.