Literary Quote of the Month

“For poems are not, as people think, simply emotions (one has emotions early enough)—they are experiences,” … Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Memoir Monday... A Widow's Story by Joyce Carol Oates

Funny, how you can know an author by name but never read her before. That's exactly what I realized when I received a copy of Joyce Carol Oates memoir in the mail from HarperCollins. I was familiar with the author by name, but I couldn't say I ever read anything by her. A Widow's Story by Joyce Carol Oates is the intimate story of the unexpected death of the author's husband and the aftermath. Here's the blurb from the publisher...

“My husband died, my life collapsed.”
On a February morning in 2008, Joyce Carol Oates drove her ailing husband, Raymond Smith, to the emergency room of the Princeton Medical Center where he was diagnosed with pneumonia. Both Joyce and Ray expected him to be released in a day or two. But in less than a week, even as Joyce was preparing for his discharge, Ray was dead from a hospital-acquired virulent infection and Joyce was suddenly faced—totally unprepared—with the stunning reality of widowhood.

A Widow’s Story illuminates one woman's struggle to comprehend a life absent of the partnership that had sustained and defined her for nearly half a century. As never before, Joyce Carol Oates shares the derangement of denial, the anguish of loss, the disorientation of the survivor amid a nightmare of "death duties," and the solace of friendship. She writes unflinchingly of the experience of grief—the almost unbearable suspense of the hospital vigil, the treacherous "pools" of memory that surround us, the vocabulary of illness, the absurdities of commercialized forms of mourning. Here is a frank acknowledgement of the widow's desperation—only gradually yielding to the recognition that "this is my life now."

Can you say a book is beautifully written when it's written about the death of someone? I have not finished reading A Widow's Story, but just from what I've read so far I know one thing: I am going to read eveything I can get my hands on that Joyce Carol Oates has written. Her prose is lyrical. Her eye for detail in the everyday and her ability to breath life in those little things is one of her gifts. And with all that she has to endure, and I feel her pain so intensely, she still is able to demonstrate her morbid sense of humor.

Look for my review in the near future, but in the meantime make a note not to miss this book if you read memoirs, or enjoy reading women's fiction, because ultimately A Widow's Story is about the journey we must take when losing a spouse. Look for A Widow's Story at your local bookstore this coming Feb. 15th.

4 comments:

Pam (@iwriteinbooks) said...

Oh wow, like you I have always heard/seen her name but have never actually read anything by JCO. Glad you enjoyed this. I think one of my 2011 goals is to read at LEAST one book by Oats.

Suzanne said...

Hi Pam,
Reading this (and I am still reading it) has made me wonder why I never read anything else by her. I am definitely going to read more of her, her writing is wonderful.

David W. Berner said...

Oates is a master. And if you are writing or reading memoir - she (and also Abigail Thomas, A Three Dog Life) is a marvelous teller of true tales that resonate so beautifully.

Memoir is about the writer's experience, but it only connects with the reader when there is shared emotion; when the writer and reader find themselves sharing the same human condition.

Oates does this with great skill!

David W. Berner
Author, Accidental Lessons

Belle said...

This sounds like a beautiful memoir. I'll definitely keep my eye out for it.

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