“I don’t think I ever got to have a midlife crisis. Can I do that now? Is there an expiration date on such essential rites of passage?”
This musing by 70-year-old widower Percy Darling reveals much about the essence of The Widower’s Tale by Julia Glass.
The book builds slowly. It’s not a page-turner in terms of suspense or romance. Yet it’s an intriguing and delightfully gentle book whose characters readers will grow to care for.
Central to the book is Percy, who lives alone in a small area outside of Boston, in some ways still mourning the wife who tragically passed in an accident many years before.
His daughters Clover and Trudy are grown and forging their own lives. When one of them becomes involved in establishing a school on part of Percy’s outlying property, he’s thrown into life once again, with good and also unpleasant results.
His grandson Robert, a pre-med student, joins his roommate in environmental protests that start as pranks but escalate to violence. An issue of illegal immigration is introduced to the mix.
But most touchingly and unexpectedly, Percy finds himself falling in love with Sarah, a local, much-younger artist with a young son. This late-in-life romance is a revelation to Percy, but also brings with it a series of challenges.
What makes The Widower’s Tale especially appealing is author Glass’s beautiful and purposeful use of language.She chooses her phrases to not only reveal traits of her characters, but also to share gentle but meaningful social commentary. For example:
One day, Percy receives a handwritten letter in the mail and says, “To spot a personal letter among one’s mail nowadays is rather like glancing out the window to spot a hummingbird cling at a blossom. A rare sight, arresting and sweet.”
The book is a leisurely mixture of wry wit, romance lost and found, misguided purpose and the fragile rewards and pitfalls of simply living one’s life.
402 pages; $25.95