A Widow's Story: A Memoir
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A Widow's Story: A Memoir

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  1,897 ratings  ·  412 reviews
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 forty-six 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 r...more
ebook, 432 pages
Published February 15th 2011 by HarperCollins e-books (first published September 8th 12)
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Clay
I requested a galley of Joyce Carol Oates' "A Widow's Story, a Memoir", because, as an author who was also some years ago widowed, I thought it might speak to me, and it certainly has, in more ways than I could ever have imagined.

There are a lot of grief books, a number written by widows, but none tells the raw truth of grief and loss like this one, how close to insanity grief feels--is, perhaps--and for a very long time too; how savage, precarious, shattering and lazy grief is, until, at some a...more
Melinda
Joyce Carol Oates ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joyce_Ca... ) wrote this book after the sudden and unexpected death of her husband, Raymond Smith in 2008 ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raymond_... ). 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
Charles Bechtel
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
Amy
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
Aunt
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
Amanda
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...more
Kathy
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...more
Janice Williams
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...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...more
Tessa Rose
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
Fred Moramarco
"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
Susan
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...more
Jannekb
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
Hoosier
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
Lynne Perednia
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...more
Meg Ulmes
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...more
Joan
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...more
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
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...more
dara
May 15, 2011 dara marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: death, memoir
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...more
Crystal
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
Stephanie D.
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...more
Lauren
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...more
Paula
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
Carole
Dec 20, 2010 Carole marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
The interview link Ms. Oates did in the Atlantic Magazine on-line. I savoured every word and look forward to reading her memoir. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/a...

I hope to gleen some sort of hope, as she shares, in a world that partly shuns a woman who has lost so much. And, I dare say I do not talk about it since most do not know what to say or how to relate. So going through so much traumatic loss I feel a saddened kinship to Ms. Oates writing about her grieving.

A loss of my first husb...more
Laurel-Rain
On an early morning in February 2008, Joyce Carol Oates took her husband to the ER at the Princeton Medical Center, where he was diagnosed with pneumonia. He would recover and be released in just a few days, they were told. But then unexpectedly, he developed a secondary infection and died, just a couple days before he was due to be discharged.

What an astounding loss! And in "A Widow's Story: A Memoir," we follow the author, known for her prolific literary fiction and who reveals little of her p...more
Cheryl
Sep 25, 2011 Cheryl rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who wants to understand the grief process better
Recommended to Cheryl by: Bookmarks Magazine
"What is happening to me? Am I abandoning Ray?"

This, albeit near the end of the novel, is where I suddenly, involuntarily connected with the widow's struggle, one of many. It seems so similar (to a death), seeing a husband off to war for a protracted amount of time. At least for me.

The widow mourns for so long.....and survivor's guilt kicks in over something as simple as the first full night of sleep after the loss of a spouse. She almost doesn't want it to happen (to sleep peacefully), althoug...more
Suzanne
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...more
Nelly
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
Lorrie
I was attracted to this memoir because it was written by a well-known novelist. I knew nothing about her, really, other than the persistent thought that her picture reminded me of Olive Oyl. Her other novels are somewhat dark and dreary, so I've only stuck with a few to the end.

The author writes about her life after her husband of 48 years, Ray, dies suddenly after contracting a viral infection in the hospital as he recovered from pneumonia. When she speaks of her life from the first few minutes...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
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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.” 54 likes
“I am made to think, not for the first time, that in my writing I have plunged ahead-head-on, heedlessly one might say-or 'fearlessly'- into my own future: this time of utter raw anguished loss. Though I may have had, since adolescence, a kind of intellectual/literary precocity, I had not experienced much;nor would I experience much until I was well into middle age-the illnesses and deaths of my parents, this unexpected death of my husband. We play at paste till qualified for pearl says Emily Dickinson. Playing at paste is much of our early lives. And then, with the violence of a door slammed shut by wind rushing through a house, life catches up with us.” 5 likes
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