Bitsy's Bookshelf: A Widow For One Year

by Adam Bertrand · June 4, 2008

[Image via Fantastic Fiction]

I, for the most part, love the way John Irving writes and really, a number of his books belong on Bitsy's bookshelf (The World According to Garp, A Prayer For Owen Meany), but I think A Widow for One Year is the most fitting. Plot aside (though the plot, which deals with a dysfunctional family of writers, unrequited love, and a daughter's search for her mother, is gripping, hilarious, and meandering in the best sort of way), AWFOY is crammed with preppy references -Exeter, personal squash courts, privet hedges, the 92nd street Y, Volvos. All the characters wear permutations of the same outfit (black tee-shirts, threadbare khakis, faded swim trunks, well cut black suits), and Ted Cole, the heroine's children's book author father, has a penchant for Jack on the rocks (and his daughter's best friend...oops, spoiler!). AWFOY is long (537 pages), but it doesn't feel long; all of the characters' stories are interesting, if often frustrating. Plus Irving does his trademark weaving-in-snippets-of-other-stories-ostensibly-written-by-his-characters bit, which I love. Check it out if you want a well-written, at times powerful story that is also a breezy, enjoyable read.