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Wednesday, December 6, 2006

A Widow for One Year

A Widow for One Year by John Irving

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:

October 18, 2002

The least fun reviews to write are for books like "A Widow for One Year" that are just OK. It's great to be able to praise a superb book and it's also fun to vent a little frustration about a bad book, but it's hard to find the right words to describe a book that is only so-so. I'll try anyway.

So far I've read two other Irving novels (I'll get around to reading more of them soon) "The Cider House Rules" was a good book (also a good movie) which maybe I didn't give enough credit. "The Fourth Hand" was a terrible book in every way. "A Widow for One Year" falls in between. The story is good, but suffers from average writing, nonsympathetic characters, heavy-handed foreshadowing, and some forced plot elements. Eddie was the only character I really cared about (maybe pitied is a better way to put it) none of the others seemed like really good people I could root for. The first part of the book set in 1958 has foreshadowing all over the place, enough so you almost don't need to read the rest of the book. That's something I harp on all the time because as I reader I WANT to be surprised. The forced plot elements are in the relationships between certain characters. Why does Eddie love Ruth's mom so much that he pines for her for 40 years? They slept together 60 times, but other than that there didn't seem to be much depth to the summer they shared in the Hamptons. Then why does Eddie switch allegiance to Ruth for one year after her first husband dies? There seemed no reason at all for Eddie to love Ruth, which is probably why that is quickly dropped after Ruth marries her second husband. Then of course is the rushed romance between Ruth and second husband Harry. Their only reason for hooking up seemed to be because he liked to read, she liked to write, and they both knew a prostitute in Amsterdam (Harry in fact solves the murder of said prostitute, which Ruth witnessed and gave him an anonymous tip). Maybe it's just me, but I didn't feel that was enough for them to run off and get married (and as far as we know to have a successful marriage).

If you've ever thought about writing a book, I'd suggest reading this. It was a good mental exercise for me to think about which writer I most resemble: Ruth, Ruth's mom, Ruth's dad, or Eddie. Though if you think you write like either of Ruth's parents then you're probably in trouble.

The reason I give this three stars is that despite the shortcomings, the story was interesting. So I'd say to put this on your list of books to read, just not at the top.

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