BKMT READING GUIDES



 
Dark,
Gloomy,
Dramatic

3 reviews

A Widow for One Year
by John Irving

Published: 2001-11-27
Mass Market Paperback : 608 pages
0 members reading this now
9 clubs reading this now
0 members have read this book
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 ...
No other editions available.
Add to Club Selections
Add to Possible Club Selections
Add to My Personal Queue
Jump to

Introduction

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.

Editorial Review

John Irving fans will not be startled to find that A Widow for One Year is a sprawling farce-tragedy crawling with characters who are writers. In the opening scene, 4-year-old Ruth Cole walks in on her melancholy mother, Marion, who is in flagrante with 16-year-old Eddie, the driver for drunken Ted (Ruth's dad and Marion's estranged, womanizing husband).

Eddie spends the rest of his life obsessively writing novels like Sixty Times, his roman à clef about his 60 seductions by Marion. Ted is a failed novelist who gets rich and famous writing creepy children's stories based on tales he tells Ruth (such as The Mouse Crawling Between the Walls). Marion abandons Ruth, Ted, and Eddie and becomes a successful pseudonymous novelist. And Ruth becomes the most richly celebrated writer of them all because of her early training by Ted, who not only told her stories, but also helped her craft narratives to explain their home's many photographs of her brothers, who died in a gory car wreck the year before she was born. Grief over the boys is why Ruth's mother does not dare to love her.

Ruth, Irving's first female main character, works brilliantly, first as an imaginative, almost Salingeresque child coming to terms with her bewildering family, then as a grownup striving to understand her mother's motives--or at least to track her down. Ted is a mordantly funny caricature, interestingly sinister and plausibly self-justifying when most inexcusable. Eddie is a lovable schlemiel, yet not too sentimentally drawn. And what set pieces Irving can write! The story of the boys' death is horrific and effective in dramatizing the character of Ted, who narrates it. Ted's attempted murder by a spurned lover is as hilarious as the VW-down-the-marble-stairway scene in A Prayer for Owen Meany (which has been adapted by Disney Studios), though not quite on a par with the celebrated "Pension Grillparzer" episode in The World According to Garp (reissued in a 20th anniversary edition by Modern Library).

Irving has the effrontery to get away with practically any scene that comes into his head--Ruth winds up an eyewitness to a hooker's murder in Amsterdam, a Dutch detective starts tracking her down (just as Ruth is hunting Marion), and the multiple plot strands all converge in a finale that neatly echoes the opening scene. It's all done with the outrageously coincidental yet minutely realistic brio of Charles Dickens, with a sad, self-conscious jokiness like that of Irving's mentor, Kurt Vonnegut. --Tim Appelo

Excerpt

No Excerpt Currently Available

Discussion Questions

No discussion questions at this time.

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
by kbatson (see profile) 04/27/19

 
  "Thumbs down"by commtexx (see profile) 01/19/16

This book was so difficult that is have us lots of discussion about how hard it was to read and frustrating it was.

 
  " Widow for a Year"by mschiffman (see profile) 01/18/16

 
  "Not my style"by KWest (see profile) 06/21/12

John Irving is not easy reading. I don't recommend this for casual book clubs, but it could be good if you enjoy longer books that produce in depth discussions. It's overall, a very bizarre love story... (read more)

 
  "Bizarre, but not dull."by suepett (see profile) 12/19/11

A good character study - but very bizarre.

 
  "a widow for one year"by emptynester (see profile) 03/11/10

Everybody in our club loved the book. It was a long book but a page turner. Everybody liked the ending, the book kept you guessing.

 
  "Great book for discussion!"by courtneysly (see profile) 09/26/07

This book explores the essence of storytelling -- reality vs. imagination. Many different stories exist within this one novel, but the beauty is that they all serve to enhance the main story. The author... (read more)

 
  "Very good book with many themes for discussion."by kbatson (see profile) 09/26/07

This story covers so many themes that there is endless topics for discussion. Very cohesive; every story line ties together brilliantly without seeming contrived. This is a lengthy book and the author... (read more)

Rate this book
MEMBER LOGIN
Remember me
BECOME A MEMBER it's free

Join the leading website for book clubs with over 35,000 clubs and 20,000 reading guides.

SEARCH OUR READING GUIDES Search
Search


FEATURED EVENTS
PAST AUTHOR CHATS
JOIN OUR MAILING LIST

Get free weekly updates on top club picks, book giveaways, author events and more
Please wait...