Author: Julia Glass.
Publisher: Pantheon 2010. Available in paperback by Anchor Books.
I think of myself as a reader of mysteries more than any other type of book. When I go to the library that is the section I gravitate to first. (I have yet to figure out yet why what I would call a “mystery” is sometimes to be found in the “Mystery” section and sometimes in the “Fiction” section. Who decides which it is?) However, since beginning these reviews I have read a good bit of fiction in trying to review books for everyone’s taste.
And, in retrospect, I find that not a single one of my favorite books of the past has been a mystery. My bookshelf of favorites consists of, among others, Stegner’s Angle of Repose, Styron’s Sophie’s Choice, Walker’s Color Purple and Irving’s World According to Garp. So I guess I have a broader spectrum of literary genre than I thought I had.
I found my latest fictional book, The Widower’s Tale, a delight to read. Before writing a review I often go online to read reviews written by others to help me organize my thoughts. Most all reviews gave this book four out of five stars. There were a few who disliked it because they thought it had political and social agendas, but what book of any interest doesn’t? Think of Les Miserables, Oliver Twist, Gone With the Wind and very currently, The Help. Each of these has strong political or social messages, but what wonderful stories they are. In order for a book to have well rounded characters the author must give them opinions on what is happening around them and for the story to seem real we must be able to see what events are shaping their lives. I am not implying in any way that this author’s work is of the caliber of those I just mentioned, however, having a message does not take away from its being a good story and she does a fine job with it.
This book has several main characters to keep track of, each with his own story, but all connected in some way. Percy Darling, a 71 year old retired librarian from Harvard, lives in a historical home on the outskirts of Boston. Thirty years ago he was widowed and left with two young girls to raise. His daughter, Clover, who has abandoned her husband and children, has renovated Percy’s old barn where she has established a pre-school. One of the teachers in the school is Ira, a homosexual man who has resisted marrying his lawyer partner, despite loving him deeply. We also get to know Celestine, a man who is in this country illegally. He was brought to America as a young boy to be educated by a wealthy archeologist his father had worked for in Guatemala. He has become an excellent gardener but he is always fearful of being sent home. And last, but not least, is Robert, Percy’s grandson, a pre-med student, who has become involved, somewhat accidentally and rather half heartedly, in ecoterrorism. So you see there is plenty of room here for political and social opinions to be expressed by word and deed by the various characters. However, I found each of these viewpoints shown in ways that were a logical part of the storyline.
Throughout the story we hear of Percy’s life with his wife, his sense of great loss without her and her death’s effect on his young family. Much to his surprise he has now become romantically involved with a woman, Sarah, who is not only much younger than himself, but also has a young son. Their relationship is rudely interrupted and disrupted when she discovers that she has breast cancer and pushes Percy away in a strongly felt sense of independence. She is being treated by his other daughter, Trudy, an excellent oncologist specializing in women’s cancers. Clover, Percy’s daughter is attempting to get her two children back. Robert, Ira and Celestine become acquainted when, together, they build a wonderful tree house for the children in the pre-school.
You can easily see how their lives become intertwined, each involved in some way with the others’ lives. There is enough suspense, romance, gentle intrigue and plain good story to please my reader’s soul.
Ms. Glass also has written other books, one of which, Three Junes, won the 2002 National Book Award. I will be looking for that at my local library or book store soon.
Diane Bostick has lived on Marco Island since 1987. She was the Founder and President of Ft. Myers chapter of the Association of Children with Learning Disabilities, President of Jr. Welfare League, Ft. Myers Chapter, and served on the board of Art League of Marco Island. She is an avid reader, fly fisherwoman, tennis player and crafter.