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A WIDOW’S STORY By: Joyce Carol Oates March 27, 2011

Posted by lycan librarian in book reviews, Books and reading.

     All of Oates’ work is filled with passion, emotion and all that life has to throw at us, but this piece, written about losing her husband of forty-seven years and twenty-five days is especially poignant. Oates takes us through the stages of loss and grief, and we follow her, absorbing her disbelief, anger, numbness, and disorientation.
     There are few among us who have not gone through a hospital or nursing home vigil, and anyone who has can relate to Oates arriving home and smelling the facility on herself. We can understand her losing patience with the loud and too-cheerful nurse who hints for small gifts of appreciation, and while we want to stop her during the blind rage when she throws away all her clothes that hold memories of events with her husband, we can still imagine being in her shoes and doing the exact same thing. This book is a tough read, but worth suffering through. It reminds us to stop and think — to appreciate what we have in the limited time we have it.
     The book drags readers along, and they are just as helpless as the author. By the end, Oates does, of course, grasp acceptance of her situation. The last scene is beautiful, and holds a life lesson for us all. Some six months after her husband’s death, she had hosted a dinner party, and upon awakening the next morning, sees that raccoons had tipped over one of the garbage cans. She goes out, grumbling, and picks up the bits of trash. Suddenly, she sees something shiny — one of her favorite earrings. To her surprise, the second one is laying a few feet away. They had been unwittingly swept into the trash, and had the cans not been overturned, they would have been forever lost. To sum up this experience, Oates wrote, “This is my life now. Absurd, but unpredictable. Not absurd because unpredictable, but unpredictable because absurd. If I have lost the meaning of my life, and the love of my life, I might still find small treasured things amid the spilled and pilfered trash.”



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