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Widow: Stories

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  137 ratings  ·  34 reviews
“In prose shimmering with intelligence and compassion, Michelle Latiolais dissects the essentials of everyday life to find the heartbeat within.”—Alice Sebold, author of The Lovely Bones

Widow is a hymn to reverence, simultaneously heartbroken and celebratory. Michelle Latiolais has given us the rarest item, a splendidly articulated masterpiece.” —William Kittredge

“In this luminous collecti—William/>“within.”—Alice
Paperback, 160 pages
Published February 1st 2011 by Bellevue Literary Press (first published January 1st 2011)
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Average rating 4.16  · 
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 ·  137 ratings  ·  34 reviews

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Richard Derus
Feb 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
This yodel of rapture, I mean review!, has been revised and can now be found at Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud.

Don't you love discovering books because of other books?
Mar 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-of-2011
There is a legend of the thorn bird; as it impales itself and dies, it rises above its own agony to outsing the lark and the nightingale and the whole world stills to listen. As humans face death – our own or our most beloved – the best writers have the ability to rise up and eloquently sing. I speak, of course, of Joan Didion in The Year of Magical Thinking, of Francisco Goldman in Say Her Name, of David Vann in Legend of a Suicide. And now, Michelle Latiolais takes her place in that very top t ...more
Christine Palau
Aug 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
17 stories in 157 pages, and yet it took me about 20 days to read. Each story (Widow, The Long Table, Boys, Tattoo, Pink, Place, The Moon, Crazy, Involution, Caduceus, Thorns, Gut, Hoarding, The Legal Case Breathe, Burqa, and Damned Spot) is so powerful and alive that it was hard to read more than one a day. There's something about Latiolais's writing--and the voice of her narrators--that you should experience slowly to fully appreciate. Part of it is probably the need to catch your breath and c ...more
Payton Lin
Oct 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Her writing style is so AGGRESSIVE. Her words rupture through the seams of each page as if her arms are lashing out at the reader, her bony hands violently thrashing about with the intention of clasping your jugular and then squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeze..............

Jeff Bursey
Feb 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
Please find this, buy it, and read it in support of strong writing without an ounce of sentiment, but with plenty of feeling, on the matter of widowhood (among other topics).
Rob Forteath
May 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Much of this collection is the internal narrative of a woman (who differs in particulars from story to story) who has suffered the sudden loss of her husband during the prime of their lives. She is painfully aware of the stereotypes of "the widow", aware of her own growing isolation, aware of how she is losing the ability to interact socially, and maybe not entirely aware of how her attempts to keep her negativity behind a glass wall are not successful.

It is hard for me to imagine wr
Jul 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011-reads
These stories begin and end anywhere and anyhow they want to - Latiolais just follows an idea, image, question. I never felt the wistful yearning for more that I experience after reading other short stories. Some are extremely short - two or three pages - but these bear the same weight as the longer ones, if not more. The ordering of the stories is carefully done - creating a gradually building, yet meandering larger story, creating a pattern and a sort of vacuum, an emptiness. The theme of wido ...more
Jul 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recentfiction
The very first story was heartbreaking. The stories are typically linked but not every one of them is about the same character. I felt as though I were experiencing the character's grief, it was that powerful. This is a book to reread. I think of people who have lost a spouse. I remember one friend describing, or trying to describe, some of these moments. Words fail. But not for this author. It makes me think she is writing about her own life, her own losses. If so, even more astonishing, that s ...more
Mar 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
This book nails what it is like to grieve, without whining. Autobiographical shorts, mixed in with fiction shorts ~ Latiolais has a way of putting consciousness down on paper that explores feminine principals, rather than letting a stream take you all over the place without getting to a point. Latiolais definitely hits the gut, but makes the reader smile as the discomfort settles in. An enjoyable and mentally stimulating read. Definitely one I will revisit without too much time lapsing between r ...more
Amy Neftzger
Jan 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Michelle Latiolais has a different approach to writing short stories, and anyone looking for an action-packed adventure will be disappointed. This is highly reflective work seeping with thoughtful passages and poignancy. She’s adept at writing about individual moments that reflect and summarize greater life experiences. The best way to describe this book in a single word would be to call it “pithy.” It’s rich and thoughtful, incredibly well written, and a joy to read.
Mary Catherine
Mar 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This came in the mail, recommended by the only person whose opinions I take to heart. And so, clouded with affection and a tiny bit of long distance loneliness, I immediately adored this book. Now a week later, upon further consideration, I am certain the book is actually worthy of such adoration. Latiolais's lithesome command of language is electrifying.
May 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I love story collections about serious subjects that retain a sense of humor but also don't trivialize the sadness. A couple of the stories left me a little confused, albeit in a good way. Latiolais strikes just the right balance here and--be warned--the final story will leave a permanent lump in your throat.
Edward Hamlin
Nov 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
An intriguing collection of thoughtful, at times somewhat eccentric stories on the general theme of widowhood. The stories strike a fine balance between being meditative and grounded in the worldly, with frank and sometimes very raw emotion connecting them throughout. There is grieving here aplenty, but also backward-looking celebrations of good marriages, first flirtations with future husbands, rich evenings with friends sitting around tables laden with delicious food. (I appreciated the recipe ...more
Midwest Geek
Dec 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: lovers of good fiction.
Although this is technically a collection of short stories, it reads more like a novella describing the state of mind and experiences of a character. They involve reflections by a woman who lost her husband 7 years earlier after 18 years of marriage, although not all stories take place after he died. Mild spoiler: (view spoiler) The prose is ...more
Deborah A.
Mar 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
In this collection of memoirish stories, Latiolais describes events surrounding a narrator who has lost her husband suddenly to suicide. She alternates first person and third person, degrees of fiction and nonfiction, as if to say that there is no narrative form that can accommodate this reality. Even in the midst of heartbreak, this writer is never reduced to sentimentality or cliche. The language is always striking and beautiful and wholly original. I just have to quote from the opening of her ...more
Joaquin Lowe
May 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Thematically charged...obviously. Latiolais deals with death, loneliness and the definitions people put on others based on circumstances largely outside of any control. Latiolais is a lovely writer and there really aren't any duds in this small collection.

The one thing I would say is that she doesn't write very "close" to her characters. The distance of her writing tends to alienate the reader from her characters, just as her characters, lost in their own insular thoughts, are alienated from th
Jan 02, 2014 rated it liked it
This is an artfully written collection. Very moving. Smooth prose, poetic in places, experimental in others. Precise, sensitive. The theme of grief is sometimes hard to read - but it is ultimately worthwhile (so I felt as a reader). There are places where happy or uplifting moments come through, but this isn't a book of epiphany or "getting through and feeling better". I very much liked the recurring theme of love in marriage - relationships that matter and sustain and nourish - thus, the death ...more
Feb 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was my second attempt at this slim volume of stories, many more vignettes than narratives. I still found it hard going at first. I felt discomfited by the deep interiority and prickliness, and impatient for more narrative drive. By the end I was full of admiration for the writing, and also devastated. I finished the last story at the end of a commute to work. I had to sit and take some breaths before entering the office. I wanted to savior and integrate the beauty, pain and intensity rather ...more
Belinda Rule
Feb 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
I did a workshop with Michelle Latiolais at Squaw Valley Community of Writers a couple of years ago!

The stories that treat widowhood in this collection, especially the title story, are absolutely explosively good in their evocation of grieving a significant death - the way that you become literally physically ill; the way that the entire subject of your identity becomes unbearable to discuss.

I am a long-term single person, and many of these stories led me to reflect on ho
Jul 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a collection of poignant, raw, and poetic prose that is a delight to read. Latiolais' word choice shows attention to sound and surprises me at every turn. She occupies the internal thoughts, memories, and political musings of those experiencing grief and life. Most of the stories are in present tense and some of the pieces are memoir. Her explorations of the human brain and heart in crisis remind me how complex our emotional experience of the world can be.
Sep 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
The stories of loss in this book ring true. I know widows, parents who have suffered the death of children, sons and daughters day-by-day experiencing the loss of their parents to dementia. The pain and struggle to cope manifests itself in a multitude of ways and are succintly and viscerally cast in Widow Stories. I also recommend "Cheating At Canasta" by William Trevor.
Mar 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: shot-stories
I've read many of these short and micro stories, and I thoroughly enjoyed most of them. "Widow" is my favorite. It brings crystalline insight to women. A couple of the micro-stories felt obscure and poetic. Overall, a lovely read.
Rebecca Stimpson
Jun 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
this comes ever so close to reading like it's been labored over. instead, it's fucking mindblowing. just read the story "pink" - it's shorter than an adequate review of this book would be. read it five times. then read the rest.
Donna Jo Atwood
May 16, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: short-stories, women
These short stories are all over the place. The mood is bittersweet/melancholy in many of them and a lot of them are very stream of conciousness. Some of them were more to the point than others. I'm very glad I didn't read them right after I became a widow.
Jan 14, 2013 added it
I don't know what is wrong with me, but I found this book almost offensively boring!
Ena Alvarado
Nov 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Overall, a very formidable collection of short stories. My favorite one, by far, was "Pink."
May 10, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Liked this quite a bit. A few stories were weaker than the others which is the only thing that prevented me from giving this four stars. Will definitely look out for other things she writes.
Cathy Norman
Aug 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I don't usually read short stories, but these are beautiful and sad and mysterious. I loved this book.
Feb 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
A collection of short stories...the first one I read is outstanding. The author is a master of language.
Apr 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Breathtaking. Heartstopping. True and beautiful.
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Michelle Latiolais, the author of the short story collection Widow: Stories and the novels A Proper Knowledge and Even Now, is an English professor and codirector of the Programs in Writing at the University of California at Irvine.
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“She has been surprised by grief, its constancy, its immediacy, its unrelenting physical pain.” 33 likes
“Wandering is better than place sometimes, than home, than destination. Sometimes she can eke out the idea that wandering is possibility, chance, serendipity--he might be there, that place she didn't think to look, hadn't worked hard enough to find....” 18 likes
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