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A Widow's Story: A Memoir

3.66  ·  Rating Details ·  2,755 Ratings  ·  499 Reviews
Unlike anything Joyce Carol Oates has written before, A Widow’s Story is the universally acclaimed author’s poignant, intimate memoir about the unexpected death of Raymond Smith, her husband of forty-six years, and its wrenching, surprising aftermath. A recent recipient of National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, Oates, whose novels (Blonde, Th ...more
ebook, 432 pages
Published February 15th 2011 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 2007)
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Mar 31, 2011 Melinda rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Joyce Carol Oates ( ) wrote this book after the sudden and unexpected death of her husband, Raymond Smith in 2008 ( ). They had been married 47 years, she was 70 and he was 78. As other writers that I have read, the author uses her writing as a way to deal with the shock of death. She writes very skillfully and with great mastery. If you have ever known a widow, then you will recognize the crushing grief combined w ...more
Jan 01, 2012 Amy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I must admit, I do take a bit of an issue of a book like this being rated and ranked, because it is a tale of pain as Joyce Carol Oates comes to terms with her grief, finding herself now alone, without her lifeline. How can one rate and review the pain of another and how another grieved? Particularly, or maybe especially, if one has not suffered a terrible loss themselves? Despite whether people feel she was being mean-spirited, disjointed, or maybe even a little cold, people react to loss diffe ...more
Apr 04, 2011 Amanda rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is the story of how novelist Joyce Carol Oates lost her husband unexpectedly to a secondary infection he acquired while in the hospital. She was 70 (?), he was 77.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about this book. I read the first half quite quickly; it was highly emotional, and highly engaging. Around the half-way point though, it was simply exhausting and redundant, even melodramatic. It may sound caustic and unfeeling, but her voice is SO highly charged that it began to sound as though she
Charles Bechtel
Dec 04, 2013 Charles Bechtel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read in one sitting. I was struck more as a writer than as a widower, something I daily dread becoming, by this idea: a primary repetitive act of any novelist is to invent, word by word, sentence by sentence. Failing the power to invent, a novelist may turn to what she can recall and massage that until she has what will stand in for what she wanted invented. One of the most striking characteristics of Ms. Oates work is that she invents so often, so well, and so clearly. Looking over how much she ...more
Nov 03, 2011 Kathy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Since this is a memoir it is difficult to separate the author from the quality of her writing. Perhaps this is a well written book. But as a person I could find nothing about her to respect. I do believe her loss was the greatest pain she ever suffered but I do not believe her pain supercedes all other pain anyone else has suffered by being widowed, divorced or beling alone. I found her to be weak, oh so needy, a name-dropper, completely self-absorbed, disdainful, mean-spirited and rude.

For me
Aug 13, 2012 Aunt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: highly-recommend
This books stands alone in searing memoirs. Not only for widows but for anyone that has lost someone who simply cannot be replaced. The most mundane things are simply too difficult to bear and oftentimes well meaning friends make the journey that much harder. The moments that registered for me were the contemplation of an eternal sleep aided by doctors who tend to treat grieving women as raving banshees to be medicated. Then, of course, the endless bargaining with whatever is out there and in co ...more
Jenny Brown
I could not finish this book. It's another of those books written by someone anointed by the literary establishment who appears to have no sense of humor, no empathy, and no sense of how spoiled and conceited they sound. Oates recounts her husband's unexpected death in a tone that pushes the reader away when they would most like to connect.

One of the perils of being a darling of the literary establishment appears to be that there are vultures there eager to profit from every word that drips off
Janice Williams
Jun 01, 2011 Janice Williams rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
A Widow's Story
Joyce Carol Oates

I am feeling a bit hesitant to write a Review (with a capital R) of this recently published book by Joyce Carol Oates for I am not qualified to critique her writing, only my heart and mind's reaction to the story she has told. With that caveat, I will share my impressions with you.

I purchased this book because, while I am not a widow, I am interested in how people adjust to life-altering situations; how they feel and what choices they make moving forward. Relation
Sep 27, 2016 Laila rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kadıköy Kitap Günleri'nde aldığım, bir süredir okunacaklar rafında bekleyen kitaptı Dul Kadının Öyküsü.

ilk birkaç sayfayı okuduğumda, "acaba yazarın gerçek yaşamında başından geçenleri mi bu yazdıkları?" diye düşünüp biraz araştırma yaptım. Okuduklarım düşüncemi doğruladı.

2008 yılında zatürreye bağlı komplekslerden yitirdiği eşinin ardından iç dünyasını tüm çıplaklığıyla kaleme almış JCO.

Diğer anı romanlardan farkı, yazı sanatı ve edebiyat üzerine bir yazarın düşünce gelişimi ve hayatta karşı
Tessa Rose
Jun 25, 2011 Tessa Rose rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The title of this book describes exactly what it is. Joyce Carol Oates takes the reader on a journey through the intimate pain of losing her husband after decades of marriage. Unafraid as a writer, Oates allows us genuine glimpses into her struggle to live through the days of her husband's illness, death, and the following year of her life. I feel like this was a "right place, right time" book for me. I was genuinely surprised by how completely it captured my attention and inhabited my heart. I ...more
Sep 28, 2011 Jannekb rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I’ve never cared much for her widely lauded, copious fiction, and I care even less for the frail and foolish person Joyce Smith (pen name Joyce Carol Oates) portrays herself to be in this memoir. When her elderly husband, Raymond Smith, dies suddenly of pneumonia, JCO is left utterly unmoored and writes frequently of feeling suicidal, unloved, and without meaning now that her beloved is gone. While she talks a good game about stockpiling pills and lying in bed wishing to sleep and never wake up, ...more
Fred Moramarco
Mar 23, 2011 Fred Moramarco rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"I can wade Grief/Whole pools of it" wrote Emily Dickinson, and Joyce Carol Oates does a considerable amount of wading in her deeply felt memoir, "A Widow's Story," written in the three years following her husband, Raymond Smith's, death in February, 2008. Although her remarriage just a bit over a year later certainly brings a happy ending to this grief chronicle, it is nowhere mentioned in the book. The Times reviewer Janet Maslin made this notion a central focus of her review, and though it is ...more
Lynne Perednia
May 03, 2011 Lynne Perednia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For 48 years and 25 days, Joyce Carol Oates thought of herself not as the author Joyce Carol Oates, but as Joyce Smith, wife of Raymond Smith, professor and editor of The Ontario Review. That thinking, that life, is abruptly shattered in the middle of a February night in 2008 when she receives a call from the hospital where she had taken her pneumonia-stricken husband a few days earlier, summoning her to get there quicky because her husband was still alive.

When she got there, he wasn't.

The guilt
If you are a widow or someone else who has suffered a loss and are seeking comfort, run, run as fast as you can, away from this book. There is little, if any, comfort to be found here.

Joyce Smith, known to most of us as Joyce Carol Oates, had been married to her husband for 47 years when he died after a short illness. She was, of course, devastated, and I truly am sorry for her sorrow. Still, I really didn't like this book.

Initially, I was annoyed by all the unnecessary exclamation points and it
After reading the 400+ pages of "A Widow's Story" written by Joyce Smith, aka Joyce Carol Oats (JCO), I have no idea whether JCO intended to write a book to honor the memory of her husband, Ray; to talk about her life as a widow; or to recount her various successes. While JCO does a beautiful job, at times, discussing the aftermath of her life after Ray's death, the unclear focus of the book detracts from the story. I have difficulty recommending this book unless one wants to learn more about JC ...more
Joan Colby
Jan 21, 2016 Joan Colby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The somewhat jumbled structure of this book accurately depicts the conflicting emotions one feels after a loss, such as Oates experienced when her husband Ray unexpectedly died after a siege of pneumonia. There is a great deal of repetition, but that’s how grief is, unrelenting. At times, A Widow’s Story seems like a prolonged howl—Oates opens herself to the reader, but the experience is almost painful. It is surprising to learn that Oates was a girl who went from her father’s house to her husba ...more
Meg Ulmes
Apr 19, 2011 Meg Ulmes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I first saw the advertisement for this memoir in the New York Times Book Review, I knew that I had to read it. Several weeks later when I found it on the new book shelf in my local library, I knew that it would be a challenge for me to read because I am still going through the grieving process. When I scanned the first few pages of the memoir and discovered that Ms. Oates' husband had died within 11 days of my own in 2008, I knew the book would speak to me.

And it has. I have been challenged
Feb 10, 2011 Suzanne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
I tend to not enjoy reading memoirs, which Joyce Carol Oates describes in this poignant book as at once the most seductive and dangerous of genres. At their worst, they come across as whiny (look at poor me and the vicissitudes I've overcome...) and at best, self-congratulatory. But then every so often one comes along, like Ann Patchett's memoir of a friendship in "Truth and Beauty", and this book by Oates about surviving the death of her husband.

At some point, most of us will survive the loss o
Sep 16, 2012 Joan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
First, I must say that I find JCO's fiction to be too disturbing to read. After reading one of her novels in which a group of teenagers kidnap a random person off the street and proceed to torture him, I figured that there are better ways to spend my time.

However, "A Widow's Story" is the kind of book, a memoir about grief, that I usually devour. My 9 year old daughter died suddenly in 2006, so I usually like to learn from ways that others have dealt with life's big losses.

In this case, I mostl
Laura Thompson
Oct 19, 2013 Laura Thompson rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I read glowing literary reviews of this book, so when I finally got around to reading it, I expected to enjoy it, as much as one can enjoy a book about such a sad subject. I was disappointed. Listen, JCO has my utmost sympathy for her terrible loss. One of my worst nightmares is losing my husband. My annoyance with the book is not with her grief, because of course, anyone would be terribly grieved in their heart after such a loss. My annoyance is with her belly-button gazing, her sympathy reject ...more
May 23, 2011 Lauren rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Two things about this book 1) I'm 250 pages in and throwing in the towel 2) I think this book has made stop liking Joyce Carol Oates.

I would not recommend this book to anyone just for the pure fact that it is about a wife losing her husband (of something like 40 years) to an unexpected death. However, if you are like me and like reading memoirs about this topic I would recommend the first 1/3 of this book. After that it is slow and loses your interest.

But to enjoy this book you also really nee
Feb 15, 2011 Bookish rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At age 72, with 115 books, numerous essays, short stories, and being a professor at Princeton, I never really thought too much about Joyce Carol Oates's personal life maybe because I imagined her work was her life. It turns out she had an incredibly close and fulfilling marriage of 47 years to Raymond Smith before his sudden and untimely death on February 18, 2008, three years ago.

Since I have read some of her work, I knew that a memoir by JCO (yes, she refers to her writer persona at times in
Christine Fay
Jul 02, 2015 Christine Fay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
I was not even a quarter of the way through this masterpiece when I had to stop to write about it. Her choice of words is inspiring. “Hopeful is our solace in the face of mortality.” Wow. Here’s another bit of inspiring wisdom. She has put into words how I have been feeling about my life this past year. “The minutiae of our lives! Telephone calls, errands, appointments. None of these is of the slightest significance to others and but fleetingly to us yet they constitute such a portion of our liv ...more
May 19, 2013 Nicole rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have had this book on my shelf for awhile but avoided reading it for several reasons. I wasn't thrilled with the last two books I read by Oates (Black Girl, White Girl and My Sister, My Love) I thought the book would be derivative (what else is there to say about widowhood after Joan Didion's Year of Magical Thinking?), and I just didn't feel like reading a depressing book. I picked it up the day before yesterday because I have been thinking about friends of ours, a lovely,smart couple with th ...more
K2 -----
Mar 19, 2011 K2 ----- rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Oates speaks of wanting to write a widow's handbook and indeed this is what she has created. Although everyone's grief experience is different her willingness to lay her experience bare will no doubt be of great comfort to many widows who are readers. I sent off two copies of the book to friends who are recent widows as soon as I completed reading it even though I can't imagine anyone having the concentration for six to nine months after one's mate's death. I also think it would be a good book f
Deborah Biancotti
Joan Didion's A YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING has cast a shadow over grief memoirs that eclipses, alas, books like this one which are far more rolling & unfocused. Reading Oates' entry to the field, I was both impressed by her honesty & mildly horrified by it. The woman we meet in these pages is understandably overwhelmed by her loss, driven half crazy by it. But also, she seems to lack any compassion, any self-awareness (does she really think her friends should cease celebrating their own ma ...more
May 15, 2011 dara marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, death
After 65 pages, I was on the fence as to whether to continue reading. Then I read a review which mentioned that for all her grief, Oates remarried a year after her husband's death. Fuck that, indecision settled: I quit.

I simply decided that there's nothing for me to be gained by reading this--no insight or closure for me personally, dealing with my own version of death and loss (of a father, not a spouse). In fact, it was starting to bring out something in me I am hesitant to acknowledge: somet
Aug 21, 2012 Crystal rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
I’ve looked for a way to justify giving this book 2 stars. For the most part, I did not like it but there are redeeming parts of this narrative. I’m mainly a non-fiction reader and I enjoyed memoirs of people who are NOT famous. I’ve never read any of Joyce Carol Oates fiction and it seems by so many reviews that I should, so I instead started with this book. It began well. But I feel it could have been cut in half. So there much redundancy and while it is her person experience, I did feel that ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
I was kicking myself for choosing this book to read over spring break. What was I thinking? Joyce Carol Oates, National Book Award-winning author, suddenly and unexpectedly loses her husband of more than forty years and she falls apart. This book is a memoir of the months she spent after his death trying to use words, the one thing she has always been able to count on, to find a way to live again.

As a person who has studied happiness for many years, Oates did everything wrong. She secluded hers
Apr 02, 2011 Paula rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Mostly skimming this motivated by the excerpt in the New Yorker which I found quite moving. Like some of her reviewers, the bloom is taken off this particular rose for me by the fact Oates began a relationship with another man 6 months after she lost her husband of 47 years. She of course portrays herself as totally devastated by Ray's death. She married again essentially a year after he died. That of course does not mean she didn't suffer in the way she describes during the three months she chr ...more
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Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. She is also the recipient of the 2005 Prix Femina for The Falls. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University, and she has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978. Pseudonyms ... Rosamond Smith and Laure ...more
More about Joyce Carol Oates...

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“There is an hour, a minute - you will remember it forever - when you know instinctively on the basis of the most inconsequential evidence, that something is wrong. You don't know - can't know - that it is the first of a series of "wrongful" events that will culminate in the utter devastation of your life as you have known it.” 83 likes
“Our great American philosopher William James has said - "We have as many personalities as there are people who know us." To which I would add "We have no personalities unless there are people who know us. Unless there are people we hope to convince that we deserve to exist.” 10 likes
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