1 review

An Available Man: A Novel
by Hilma Wolitzer

Published: 2012-01-24
Hardcover : 304 pages
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In this tender and funny novel, award-winning author Hilma Wolitzer mines the unpredictable fallout of suddenly becoming single later in life, and the chaos and joys of falling in love the second time around. When Edward Schuyler, a modest and bookish sixty-two-year-old science teacher, ...
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In this tender and funny novel, award-winning author Hilma Wolitzer mines the unpredictable fallout of suddenly becoming single later in life, and the chaos and joys of falling in love the second time around. When Edward Schuyler, a modest and bookish sixty-two-year-old science teacher, is widowed, he finds himself ambushed by female attention. There are plenty of unattached women around, but a healthy, handsome, available man is a rare and desirable creature. Edward receives phone calls from widows seeking love, or at least lunch, while well-meaning friends try to set him up at dinner parties. Even an attractive married neighbor offers herself to him.

The problem is that Edward doesn’t feel available. He’s still mourning his beloved wife, Bee, and prefers solitude and the familiar routine of work, gardening, and bird-watching. But then his stepchildren surprise him by placing a personal ad in The New York Review of Books on his behalf. Soon the letters flood in, and Edward is torn between his loyalty to Bee’s memory and his growing longing for connection. Gradually, reluctantly, he begins dating (“dating after death,” as one correspondent puts it), and his encounters are variously startling, comical, and sad. Just when Edward thinks he has the game figured out, a chance meeting proves that love always arrives when it’s least expected.

With wit, warmth, and a keen understanding of the heart, An Available Man explores aspects of loneliness and togetherness, and the difference in the options open to men and women of a certain age. Most of all, the novel celebrates the endurance of love, and its thrilling capacity to bloom anew.

Editorial Review

Mary Gordon Reviews An Available Man

Mary Gordon is the author of six previous novels, two memoirs, a short-story collection, and Reading Jesus, a work of nonfiction. She has received many honors, among them a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers' Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an O. Henry Award, an Academy Award for Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Story Prize. She is the State Writer of New York. Gordon teaches at Barnard College and lives in New York City.

A widower in his sixties: healthy, solvent, with almost all his hair. Potentially a subject for satire or impatient, knowing ironies. But Edward Schuyler doesn't get this harsh treatment from Hilma Wolitzer. An Available Man is a triumph of tender observation: wry, compassionate, literate, and often very very funny.

Edward Schuyler, a devoted high school science teacher, finds himself radically bereft when his beloved wife, Bee, dies after a painful illness. With great delicacy, Wolitzer limns the outlines of the paralyzing grief that accompanies the loss of a great love.

But the world has a limited appetite for extended grief. Everyone urges him to move on--and by moving on they mean dating. His step-children, who are devoted to him, place an ad in the New York Review of Books. The results of this ad are the occasion for Wolitzerâ??s most delicious observations. "'Sensual, smart, stunning, sensitive.' Oh, why do they always resort to alliteration...This one's a music lover? Well, who doesn't like music, besides the Taliban? 'Searching for that special someone to share Bach, Brecht, and breakfast.' When theyâ??ll probably eat bagels, bacon, and brussels sprouts."

Some of the book's most searingly poignant moments trace the darker side of mature matchmaking (maybe alliteration's catching.) There is the grieving widow whose house is a shrine to her dead husband...and whose life is a living mausoleum. There is the seventy-something plastic surgery addict who confesses to a desperate search for an impossibly vanished youth. And then there is Edward's former love, who left him at the altar, who turns out to be...well, still crazy after all these years.

The richness of the book can be accounted for in no small part, however, by Wolitzer's evocation of the mixture of emptiness and fullness that is Edward's life. He has his students, he's a birder, he has friends, he's a devoted stepfather...and the owner of an increasingly ailing, aging dog.

We never fail to root for Edward, and we and he are both rewarded by a sweet and satisfying end: a well earned coda to a novel that sheds a lovely, sometimes bittersweet, but finally hopeful light on one of the important ways we live now.



Out of the Woodwork

Edward Schuyler was ironing his oldest blue oxford shirtin the living room on a Saturday afternoon when the first telephone call came.He'd taken up ironing a few months before, not long after his wife, Bee, haddied. That happened in early summer, when school was out, and he couldn'tconcentrate on anything besides his grief and longing. At first, he onlypressed things of hers that he'd found in a basket of tangled clean clothing inthe laundry room. He had thought of it then as a way of reconnecting with herwhen she was so irrevocably gone, when he couldn't even will her into hisdreams. ... view entire excerpt...

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Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

“Heartbreaking, maddening, comical, and poignant…This sweet story of a man’s diving back into the dating pool at an older age will especially appeal to readers in that demographic. ”--Library Journal

“I absolutely loved An Available Man (and not, I swear, because I’m partial to widowers). For a start, Edward Schuyler is someone I desperately wish I could invite to my next dinner party (and not, I swear, because there are half a dozen women I’d like him to meet). This is a book to savor page by page, filled with astute detail, both comic and mournful, about what it’s like to be middle-aged and lonely yet not give up on the search for love.”—Julia Glass, author of The Widower’s Tale and the National Book Award-winning Three Junes

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  "A Widower's Walk"by Jan B. (see profile) 02/06/12

Don't look for this book to be a guide through bereavement, because it isn't that. This novel is more of a place to start conversations with your living spouses about what they would do if you should die.... (read more)

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