The House of Widows
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The House of Widows

3.35 of 5 stars 3.35  ·  rating details  ·  52 ratings  ·  16 reviews
A novel of intrigue that is played across decades, continents, and generations by the celebrated, New York Times Notable author of Ambassador of the Dead
Late one night, a week after Father's suicide, I finished sweeping the bulk of my inheritance into four giant trash bags, and heaved them into the Dumpster at the construction site around the corner from his apartment
Paperback, 256 pages
Published March 4th 2008 by Graywolf Press
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Ukrainian Literature
82nd out of 121 books — 45 voters
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Ukrainian Immigrant Fiction
19th out of 28 books — 2 voters

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dazzling and intense...the story drew me in, but the quality of the writing kept me there. I have read his earlier books and I believe this is his best yet.
James Pak is a smart guy-he's heading to Oxford and his qualifications are impeccable. He knows the facts of history, is well-educated in most fields, has a gentlemanly manner, is apparently good looking, and cash doesn't seem to be an issue. He seems to have it all together, except for the haunting questions about his father's suicide that nag at him in inopportune moments. His main problem seems to be that while he studies the facts of history, he doesn't understand the emotions that are inter...more
Based on the title alone, one might guess, correctly, that Askold Melnyczuk’s The House of Widows isn’t exactly light—or necessarily enjoyable—reading.

Following his father’s suicide, James Pak—a self-described historian—travels to London, Vienna, and Kyiv in search of his father’s, and consequently his own, history. What he discovers is far from comforting: war crimes, abuse, human trafficking.

The book has an interesting narrative pattern as it interweaves several stories and voices. Along with...more
Well, its politics and agenda are extremely overt.

Wonderful plot, reminiscent of Roth's Prague Orgy , but from the point of view of a distinctly different ethnic culture. Boy, does that sound goofy, but I only mean one can certainly tell that Melnyczuk's main player (and his father, and his grandmother and uncles) is Ukrainian, even when he's not stating it explicitly.

The book contains some lovely phrases, such as "...slutty Ariadne," the sort of thing one (as a writer) wishes he'd done himsel...more
After a dense beginning to set the stage for an elaborate cast of characters, this book really opens up and sings. Half of the middle passages read like prose poems and makes this book read easy like a dream at times. I found James' interaction with his family so realistic and 'American' (his initial timidity towards them & willingness to please eventually turns to exasperation and confusion, though embraced as 'experience'). A novel that opens your eyes to the world and ties strings between...more
Julie Elliott
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This is a novel with a multilayered plot that, in the end, is very thin and insubstantial. The story toggles back and forth across a number of years, which makes it a bit hard to follow, and I am guessing this was done by the author to flesh out his book; in the event, this 250-page novel is not even that long because of the way the chapters are paginated. It is densely written and none of the characters are sympathetic, which I always find annoying. An unsatisfying read that seemed at first to...more
A son journeys to Europe to discover the roots of his father's suicide by investigating his families history.

I think this book would have been better if it had just stuck with the son's point of view, and we learned things as he discovered them. Instead the narration jumped to different people, I suppose to show that they all interpreted the same events differently. Maybe it is just personal preference but I would have preferred to focus on the emotional journey and growth of one character rath...more
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Carol Vuillemenot
I liked this one and I disliked this one. Melnyczuk is novelist and a poet. It is the flavor of poetry in this novel that intrigued me. The story's theme may be dread, it certainly isn't forgiveness. The characters are brought to life through Melnyczuk's use of language and history and geography. This novel might be more of a cult thing where I just don't get it.

What I disliked was the way the speaker changed and I didn't know it and then I would get confused and have to reread paragraphs.
James' father commits suicide and he goes on a journey to find out his father's background and his family's history. It is a story full of twists and turns, morally and politically. The more I read, the more confused I became. The story goes back and forth, and even with dates at beginnings if chapters, my comprehension was blurry. It was a disappointment, truth be told.
Mostly told in flashback, this one is hard to follow. The preview notes make it sound interesting---a man traveling to many countries trying to figure out why his father committed suicide---but it just didn't grab me.
Jun 04, 2013 lorrie marked it as dropped
At some point, I'll manage to work through the beginning... the rest of the book still sounds so promising but the beginning has about put me to sleep.
This was really interesting. I enjoyed the writing, but it didn't always flow smoothly, and I found myself turning back often to check on details.
Adrianne Mathiowetz
Alright, book: I gave you 25 pages. Not entirely generous, but life is short, and your descriptions try too hard.
I enjoyed it, but the writing quality was kind of spotty. Quick read.
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Ambassador of the Dead What is Told Chapbook excerpt from Smedley's Secret Guide to World Literature What Is Told What is Told

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