A Widow’s Story: A Memoir

Joyce Carol Oates

You’d expect a book like this to be sad, but the sadness implicit in any widow’s story is bound to be even greater when the widow in question is Joyce Carol Oates, one of our best and most prolific writers. In 2008, she lost her husband, Ray, in the 46th year of their union. Though he was 78 years old, his death came swiftly and unexpectedly, leaving his widow grasping for ways to accept her redefinition. When a writer this good opens her heart this unsparingly, attention must be paid, not because she’s famous, but because her skills at limning the pain and wonder of human experience make her unique experience universal, shining a light upon the path we all are walking. And this isn’t just a book about loss. It’s a book about how little we know about people, even those closest to us. It’s also a love story, bordering on obsession. Most of all, it is an exploration into just how elusive identity can be, and how often we must struggle to find or hang on to a sense of who we are. Oates closes her memoir with this line: “On the anniversary of her husband’s death, the widow should think ‘I kept myself alive.’” Writing this book surely helped her survive that terrible year.