Eliza's Reviews > The Widower's Tale

The Widower's Tale by Julia Glass
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Jun 10, 2011

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Read from June 10 to 13, 2011

6/13/2011: I liked Glass' NBA winning book Three Junes, but I didn't think it merited that prize...so I thought I'd give her another chance. The Widower's Tale is solid, a great read (I finished most of it in one plane ride)--but it's still not a literary achievement. Too easy, maybe? Or maybe too familiar: the story is set in what sounds like an amalgam of Concord and Lincoln (the privileged, lefty town of Matlock, out Route 2 from Cambridge--what do YOU think?), and the cast of characters seem true to form. There's one of everything: the crotchety old widower who finds new life and love late in life; his grandson at Harvard, the good boy who makes a big mistake; the Guatemalan gardener who has a great story behind his silent acquiescence to his mow-blow & go employer (hilariously named Tom Loud), and the semi-closeted gay preschool teacher. Among others, of course, but these four characters each get a chance to narrate, which works well.
I've been puzzling over Glass' main theme/message, and I think there's a clue in the title. On one hand, a "Tale" is a yarn, a good story--and the Widower has a great story to tell. But there's also a sense of a "tale" as a fable, a story with a moral. In this story, each character has allowed himself to be passive, to let external forces direct his life, to be a victim of circumstance. Over the course of the story, each one is given a comeuppance, a kind of punishment for allowing himself to be a victim. AND each one learns (in more or less tragic ways) from that comeuppance, and each one is thus redeemed, and given a second chance.
There's a lot more to it than that, including some wonderful characters and relationships and a few great scenes. And I love the ending, it's just what I would have wanted. So the 8 hour flight went pretty fast!
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