Ruth Cole is a complex, often self-contradictory character--a "difficult" woman.By no means is she conventionally "nice," but she will never be forgotten. Ruth's story is told in three parts, each focusing on a crucial time in her life.When we first meet her--on Long Island, in the summer of 1958--Ruth is only four. The second window into Ruth's life opens in the fall of 1990, when Ruth is an unmarried woman whose personal life is not nearly as successful as her literary career.She distrusts her judgment in men, for good reason. A Widow for One Year closes in the autumn of 1995, when Ruth Cole is a forty-one-year-old widow and mother.She's about to fall in love for the first time. 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. From the Hardcover edition.
- New York Times Notable Books of the Year
The first half of Irving's ninth novel tells the story of Eddie O'Hare, a prep school student with literary aspirations who lands a job as a personal assistant to noted children's author Ted Cole in the summer of 1958. O'Hare spends most of the time in bed with Cole's wife, Marion. The second half of the book describes O'Hare's acquaintance, decades later, with Ruth Cole, Ted's daughter, who is also a successful writer. While researching her latest novel, Ruth witnesses the murder of an Amsterdam window prostitute. Irving tantalizes us with this promising subplot, then veers off in another direction. As in The World According to Garp (LJ 6/1/78), nearly every character in the book churns out reams of Irving-esque prose. It's hard to empathize with these dreary people, and their picaresque adventures seem to lack any thematic relevance. Instead of ending, the book simply runs out of steam. Still, there are legions of rabid Irving fans who will want to read every word he has written. For larger fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/98.]�Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch., Los Angeles -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
Showing 1-1 of the 1 most recent reviews
1 . Terrific Read
Posted March 06, 2011 by Lynn , HartfordI loved this book. I've never read a male writer that could get inside a female character's head as well as Irving. His characters come alive, with flaws, humor, grit and appeal.
November 26, 2001
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from A Widow for One Year by John Irving
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. It was a totally unfamiliar sound to her. Ruth had recently been ill with a stomach flu; when she first heard her mother making love, Ruth thought that her mother was throwing up.
It was not as simple a matter as her parents having separate bedrooms; that summer they had separate houses, although Ruth never saw the other house. Her parents spent alternate nights in the family house with Ruth; there was a rental house nearby, where Ruth's mother or father stayed when they weren't staying with Ruth. It was one of those ridiculous arrangements that couples make when they are separating, but before they are divorced--when they still imagine that children and property can be shared with more magnanimity than recrimination.
When Ruth woke to the foreign sound, she at first wasn't sure if it was her mother or her father who was throwing up; then, despite the unfamiliarity of the disturbance, Ruth recognized that measure of melancholy and contained hysteria which was often detectable in her mother's voice. Ruth also remembered that it was her mother's turn to stay with her.
The master bathroom separated Ruth's room from the master bedroom. When the four-year-old padded barefoot through the bathroom, she took a towel with her. (When she'd been sick with the stomach flu, her father had encouraged her to vomit in a towel.) Poor Mommy! Ruth thought, bringing her the towel.
In the dim moonlight, and in the even dimmer and erratic light from the night-light that Ruth's father had installed in the bathroom, Ruth saw the pale faces of her dead brothers in the photographs on the bathroom wall. There were photos of her dead brothers throughout the house, on all the walls; although the two boys had died as teenagers, before Ruth was born (before she was even conceived), Ruth felt that she knew these vanished young men far better than she knew her mother or father.
The tall, dark one with the angular face was Thomas; even at Ruth's age, when he'd been only four, Thomas had had a leading man's kind of handsomeness--a combination of poise and thuggery that, in his teenage years, gave him the seeming confidence of a much older man. (Thomas had been the driver of the doomed car.)
The younger, insecure-looking one was Timothy; even as a teenager, he was baby-faced and appeared to have just been startled by something. In many of the photographs, Timothy seemed to be caught in a moment of indecision, as if he were perpetually reluctant to imitate an incredibly difficult stunt that Thomas had mastered with apparent ease. (In the end, it was something as basic as driving a car that Thomas failed to master sufficiently.)