Review: A Widow For One Year by John Irving.

I have a long history with this book as I started to read it when I was about 18. Somehow it captured my interest again this summer. I had totally but really totally forgotten that I’ve read it before … hello memory troubles! Did something like that happens to you too? I wonder if I’m the only one.

“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.”

John Irving.

Once I was a few pages in, some aspects of the story line became very familiar but I couldn’t remember all of it. The book tells us the life of Ruth Cole. First her family background is painted when Ruthie is about 4 years old. She has two older brothers who died before she was born. Her mother and father love her dearly but struggle to overcome the loss of two sons, infidelity in the marriage and the upbringing of a toddler.

Most of the book is written about love and the lack thereof but love is my mind the biggest protagonist. When Ruths mom leaves everything behind, her home, her lover, husband and daughter, we are shown all possible aspects of love. Abandonment and a complicated mother – daughter relationship are red threads through this novel as well. For those who read my blog regularly will understand why I was so happy to find this book again. Ruth essentially grows up without a mother figure and her struggles with that given and the complicated relationship with here father are also prominent. It’s not easy to find books about that subject but this is one, though in a novel format.

“I try to see the whole woman,’ Eddie said to Hannah. ‘Of course I recognize that she’s old, but there are photographs – or the equivalent of photographs in one’s imagination of anyone’s life. A whole life, I mean. I can picture her when she was much younger than I am – because there are always gestures and expressions that are ingrained, ageless. An old woman doesn’t see herself as an old woman, and neither do I. I try to see her her whole life in her. There’s something so moving about someone’s whole life.”

John Irving

The book continues when Ruth is a successful author, way more successful than her father. She reconnects with the lover of her vanished mother and leaves for Europe to promote her new book. We witness more tragic loss in the family. Tragedy is next to love the second important ingredient.

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. There is a plot twist that gives suspension and you’ll find yourself in a whole other book it seems. It is well written and reads like a movie. The characters are well described and life in general, with all his troubles, comes to play.

I loved the pace of the book which is not too fast but it gives you the possibility to see the story unfold. The ending put my heart at ease as there was a feeling of justice. Maybe a feeling we all long for in our lives. Both ribald and erotic, it is also a brilliant novel about the passage of time and the relentlessness of grief with a touch of humor.

Since A Widow for One Year was published in 1995 maybe some of you have read it in the meanwhile. Have you heard about it or read it yourself? Do you remember what you thought of it or is it on your ‘to read-list?’ Let me know in the comments. If you are on Goodreads, let me know too. I’m always looking for inspiration and suggestions to read new books.

16 thoughts on “Review: A Widow For One Year by John Irving.

      1. What a quick world we live in 🙂
        I still go by foot with my bag on my shoulder 😂😂 and kindly ask the librarian if he or she would order it for me. Our library is tiny!
        It will take me a little longer but I’ll get the book too 🙂
        Thanks for commenting, my book reviews are not the most popular on my blog.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. There’s nothing quite so magical as finding a book you truly connect with!! Great review!! I have a hard time focusing on literary fiction or anything too academic, but I was glad to see how much you connected with this book!! It might inspire me to blog later about some books I’ve connected with over the years!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The thing that struck me most about this book was the innocence of the child who simply loved and reached out for her mother, even although her mother was unable to love her – and even abandoned her. Just that innocence of the child who instinctively loves, trusts and reaches out. It so sad that this is destroyed because others are selfish and unable or unwilling to work through their issues (or they choose to put their drives first.) We see it enacted again and again as we go through life.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m a bit slower in reading but still very interested. Thank you for letting me know your opinion on the book. I’m reading Paul Auster now (900 pages!) and will start in the book you’ve recommended after that one 🙂


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