Susan Emmet's Reviews > A Widow's Story

A Widow's Story by Joyce Carol Oates
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Oct 18, 11

Read in October, 2011

"Though I am writing this memoir to see what can be made of the phenomenon of 'grief' in the most exactingly minute of ways, I am no longer convinced that there is any inherent value in grief; or, if there is, if wisdom springs from the experience of terrible loss, it's a wisdom one might do without." I read excerpts of her memoir in the New Yorker and so was glad to find it at the library when I dumped a load of books, many of which meant alot to me long ago. The process of culling books is hard for me, a loss that's hard to explain. Reading of Oates' nearly fifty-year journey with her husband, Raymond Smith, and listening to her realistic, driven, sardonic, tortured voice, brought me back to dealing with grief in my own life. She speaks so honestly of normal days, holding hands, mutual support, dealing with cockroaches in Beaumont, TX,as well as the utter desolation of seeing her husband die suddenly, her suicidal leanings, and the insomniacal (is this an adjective?) nights she spent "nesting" in their bed, laid low by anti-depressants, sleep aids, and finally a horrible case of shingles. A few months after his death, Oates reads his unfinished novel, Black Mass, and realizes that there were so many parts of her husband she did not know, especially his "imagination." She finds some comfort in friends, as well as in rebuilding Ray's beloved garden with perennials instead of annuals. And in seeing the final issue of Ontario Review (which they'd started together in 1974)published. A hard, good read.
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