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A Widow for One Year

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3.76  ·  Rating details ·  55,578 ratings  ·  2,526 reviews
“One night when she was four and sleeping in the bottom bunk of her bunk bed, Ruth Cole woke to the sound of lovemaking—it was coming from her parents’ bedroom.”

This sentence opens John Irving’s ninth novel, A Widow for One Year, a story of a family marked by tragedy. Ruth Cole is a complex, often self-contradictory character—a “difficult” woman. By no means is she
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Paperback, 576 pages
Published June 1st 2004 by Ballantine Books (first published 1998)
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Average rating 3.76  · 
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 ·  55,578 ratings  ·  2,526 reviews


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Kate
Jul 13, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
I hated this book. John Iriving's inability to write women characters was a huge problem in this book since it has a female protagonist. I didn't care about her at all and I wasn't that intrigued by the story either. I generally like John Irving's writing style, but it didn't make any difference to me with this book because I didn't like one single character.
Oceana9
Nov 01, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: horny bored housewives
OK here's my final word on John Irving, because I will probably never read anything else he's written (though I've heard The World According to Garp is his best.) His characters are real and they were JUST ENOUGH to keep me going each of the twenty times I nearly stopped reading this novel. The plot is a rambling patchwork in which we never, ever, forget the writer sitting at his typewriter, searching for something to say. When he finds it, he riffs on it till it dies, and then searches for ...more
Rebecca McNutt
A Widow for One Year turned out to be better than I initially thought, although the pages featuring graphic sex scenes were kind of disturbing and felt out-of-place in the story. This book otherwise not only paints a vivid, realistic portrait of grief, but also love and nostalgia.
Laura
Dec 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing
John Irving has yet again created a whole world between the covers of a novel. Characters grow old with the reader, experience lust and loss, love and life. The thoughtfulness of his every detail and the concise placement of every word create a landscape more vivid than reality
One of the interesting topics of conversation in A Widow for One Year involves the main character’s attitude towards autobiographical fiction. Irving’s protagonist, world-famous author Ruth Cole, gives one hope that the
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Eli
Sep 07, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
The first thing that struck me about this book was the heart-stopping beauty of Marion, a central character near the beginning of the book. It's tough to get images that concrete in written words, but Irving handles it without strain. Its not just a physical description, its the way that the rest of the image is a bit darker, a bit fuzzier when Marion is in the picture, like Irving is using the depth of field in a photograph to highlight the subject, like her physical brilliance is so ...more
Tocotin
Just started... I don't know but what's with all the italicized words? Does the author do this in all his books?

Omg I just finished it. It sucked so much. The characters were all flat, reduced to one quirk and one obsession, with maybe one exception (Rooie), and OMG again, why would a writer write about a writer writing about a writer? And what was it with the main character's family of writers, and her mother's lover being a writer too? And why would the author avoid simple names or pronouns,
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Bridgette Redman
Feb 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I’d forgotten what an intoxicating writer John Irving is. His compelling prose has a clarity and starkness that manages to entertain your brain and soul while permanently incorporating his characters and stories into your memory and being.

Irving is not one of those writers who kicks out a new novel every year. His novels are too carefully crafted, too (dare I say it?) literary to be anything less than an evolutionary process. After reading A Widow for One Year, I suspect his books are
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Chana
I had really expected something different. This is the 1st of his books that I have read but I knew he wrote The World According to Garp, Cider House Rules and A Prayer for Owen Meany. Maybe it is just this book but I have to say that Mr. Irving has his mind in the gutter. (sorry to all of you who think this was a terrible thing to say!) He is funny sometimes and he does write memorable scenes, however... right now we are perusing the red light district in Amsterdam. There is sex on just about ...more
Erick
May 29, 2008 rated it liked it
The first couple hundred pages of the book, before it jumps forward several decades, are the most even, and it is this part of the story that is most endearing. This first part introduces us to the story's three or four main characters and chronicles their shared summer of 1958--a summer which, you guessed it, has profound effects on the rest of all their lives.

And it is much of the rest of these lives that Irving takes us through in the remaining four hundred pages, and due to the front-heavy
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devon
Jun 29, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sarah Becker
Sep 06, 2015 rated it it was ok
I hated about 89% of this book. The first part-- the whole 1958 part-- I really loved. Loved Eddie's goofy dad, the clam truck driver, Mrs. Vaughan, Ted drunkenly making Ruth grilled cheese. I was really excited to keep reading.

I even loved the beginning of the next part-- Eddie running around in the rain trying to get to the book reading. After that? JUST WTF. Adult Ruth was insufferable. Hannah was about four billion times more insufferable. Ruth's journal and novel excerpts-- yep,
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J.K. Grice
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
What the hell happened to John Irving??? The man that gave us Garp, Cider House, and Owen Meany has only produced mediocre works at best since 2000. Thankfully we have Richard Russo.
Jeana
May 28, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: good-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mitch
Sep 19, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: just-fiction
This is one of those 537-page books that, after you've read about 100 pages, you realize you've pretty much seen what the author's handing out and you don't care for it. This is a drag because there is so much more of it to go and only some misguided impulse to finish what you've started goads you stubbornly onward.

What's not to like? Well, here's some:

At times Irving writes with the grace of a ballet dancer and at others he lumbers along like a blindfolded football player looking for an exit.
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Sharon Metcalf
Mar 30, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, 2018
John Irvings website describes A Widow For One Year as " Richly comic, as well as deeply disturbing, A Widow for One Year is a multilayered love story of astonishing emotional force. Both ribald and erotic, it is also a brilliant novel about the passage of time and the relentlessness of grief." It all sounds so appealing to me so what a shame it is to discover that after reading all 668 pages my astonishing emotional responses were relief that I can now move on to something else, and ...more
Bri | bribooks
“What greater thing is there for two human souls, than to feel that they are joined for life - to strengthen each other in all labor, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting?“

Oh, John Irving. You have done it again. You have taken my heart and torn it in two; you have opened my eyes a little more.

Published in 1998, exactly twenty years after The World According to Garp,
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DebsD
I picked this up because I've enjoyed several of Irving's other novels; having read it, I'm looking forward to my next one. This is a long novel and not especially fast-paced, but I was engaged from the start and one of my favourite moments occurs right at the end - I was never disinterested.

Irving is very much a story-teller. He carefully builds the structure of his tales and it shows - but his characters are as strong as his stories, and neither suffers from the attention paid to the other. He
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E
Jul 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
The first half is Irving at his best. All those hooks on the wall. All that broken glass and all those windblown sketches. All that honesty amid all that posturing. All that clunky sex amid endless guilt.

The second half embodies the detachment, the absurdity, the too-many-ideas-at-once that the main characters have grown to embrace. Perhaps they are defense mechanisms. Perhaps they are the inevitable scars of emotional abuse. Marion is so matter-of-fact about her fate, so resigned to a life that
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Carol
Jul 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
My 4-star "read" review is really a misnomer because I haven't really "read" this book. This is my third try at it and once again I am stopping at the same spot I stopped the other two times! I reread the first third of the book, which I enjoyed, got into the second third of the book, read about 50 pages and come to a grinding halt.

I'm really not sure what it is that is stopping me at this point but since it is the third time, I'm not sure I will try again. I returned it to the library and am
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magdalena dyjas
Nov 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In my late teens and early twenties I used to read Irving's books all the time, I think I must've read "a widow for one year" at least 4 or 5 times - it was one of my favourite books of his. I'd recently decided to read it again (it's been years...), this time in English. It's not the book I used to love. Or maybe I'm not the person I used to be. It's been a surreal experience. The story, the characters, the language, nothing was like it used to be. It was like reading two different books on the ...more
Celia
Dec 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another winner from John Irving.

I listened to A Widow for One Year on Audio CD read by one of my favorite narrators, George Guidall.

It is a book about authors and their books and their lives. It spans 37 years in the lives of Ruth Cole and Eddie O'Hare.

Ruth is the protagonist. Her parents are Ted and Marion Cole. Eddie is hired by Ted to be his driver one summer (Ted is an alcoholic who has had his driver's license suspended). Eddie becomes one of the family.

This book is Irving's ninth novel,
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Irene
Oct 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is the only Irving novel I've read so far, but I plan to read more in the future. I read "A widow for one year" about a year ago, and I picked it unknowingly in the bookshop without knowing anything about the author, his style or the story. To be honest, I picked it up just because:

a) It was long and it was summer
b) It began with the sentence "One night when she was four and sleeping in the bottom bunk of her bunk bed, Ruth Cole woke to the sound of lovemaking -it was coming from her
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Kellie
Mar 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2008-reads
When I think about a book written by John Irving, the picture that comes to mind is a vine; a vine that weaves within itself and spreads thick in it’s own mass. This is the 3rd Irving book I have read. Irving uses some of the same themes in his many novels. Boarding schools, younger men with older women are some that immediately come to mind. This particular book is about a family that lives in The Hamptons. The father, Ted is an author of children’s books. The wife, Marion, is also an author ...more
Suzanne
Feb 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
One of the great books Irving has ever written, this novel is basically two stories in one. A fairly accurate and well-done film version of the first part came out a few years ago entitled "A Door in the Floor". It was well cast with Jeff Bridges and Kim Basinger and filmed on location on Long Island.
This is the story of a young girl born to two people whose lives were destroyed when their two young sons were killed while driving their parents home after a night of too much drink. The child is
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Jessalyn Hill
Jun 28, 2010 rated it it was ok
This book was slightly disappointing, despite how interesting the plot was. The main character, Ruth, seemed like half a person to me - and what an unlovable person, at that!

One interview said the book's "comic masterstroke" was that writer John Irving made all of the characters in this book writers. Ha ha ha ha haaaaaa.....oh wait. That's so funny, I forgot to laugh. It would have been funny if all of the characters were hot dog vendors, for example, or clowns. But I fail to see what is funny
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Kate
Jan 14, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What a disappointment. Irving seems to think the way to write a convincing female character is to keep mentioning the size of her breasts.
Ruthenator
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2018
I enjoyed the first maybe 120 pages. Then it really started getting on my nerves. The italics. My god, the italics! (and the parentheses.) It had been 25 or so years since I'd read an Irving book, and I'd loved Garp and Owen Meany. This brick I picked up at a library sale and for a while it had been elevating my laptop until one day I thought maybe I should actually read the book. I opened it and found one of the main characters has the same first name as mine, so I continued.
I did enjoy some
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Paula
If they search in my library after I die, they'll find inside the covers of some of my books notes, lists of characters and favorite quotes. There will be underlined phrases throughout. Exclamations in the margins. Here's a quote from this John Irving novel that I believe describes much of what this story is trying to say.

Ted Cole is in the passenger seat while he gives his daughter, Ruth, a driving lesson.
"The test is, sometimes there's no place to pull over–sometimes you can't stop, and you
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Karen Klink
Oct 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary
I started to give this four stars but, the more I thought about it, well, here's five stars.

A fifth star (from me) means there has to be something timeless about the story, passages that express moments of what I think of as universal connection and deep understanding. My heart either seems to slow down or speed up and I sometimes close my eyes and feeling a welling up of emotion inside. I suppose if I were willing to spend the time on this review I could express myself better, but here I sit
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Brittanie
Sep 02, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What a hate read. My friend recommended I read some John Irving, so I chose this book because I lived in Amsterdam, and part of the book takes place there. I wanted to rage-quit this book SO MANY TIMES but for some fucking reason I held out until the very end. John Irving does not know how to write women characters. He barely knows how to write period. Every other word is fucking italics which gives the impression that he has VOICE IMMODULATION DISORDER like that Will Ferrell character.

Anyway,
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JOHN IRVING was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, in 1942. His first novel, Setting Free the Bears, was published in 1968, when he was twenty-six. He competed as a wrestler for twenty years, and coached wrestling until he was forty-seven.
Mr. Irving has been nominated for a National Book Award three times—winning once, in 1980, for his novel The World According to Garp. He received an O. Henry Award
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“…the consequences of sex are often more memorable than the act itself.” 106 likes
“All his life he would hold this moment as exemplary of what love was. It was not wanting anything more, nor was it expecting people to exceed what they had just accomplished; it was simply feeling so complete.” 70 likes
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