A Widow’s Story: A Memoir

Joyce Carol Oates

“My husband died, my life collapsed.”

On a February morning in 2008, Joyce Carol Oates drove her ailing husband, Raymond Smith, to the emergency room of the Princeton Medical Center where he was diagnosed with pneumonia. Both Joyce and Ray expected him to be released in a day or two. But in less than a week, even as Joyce was preparing for his discharge, Ray was dead from a hospital-acquired virulent infection, and Joyce was suddenly faced – totally unprepared – with the reality of widowhood.

A Widow’s Story illuminates one woman’s struggle to comprehend a life absent of the partnership that had sustained and defined her for nearly half a century. Joyce Carol Oates shares the derangement of denial, the anguish of loss, the disorientation of the survivor amid a nightmare of “death duties,” and the solace of friendship. She writes unflinchingly of the experience of grief – the almost unbearable suspense of the hospital vigil, the treacherous “pools” of memory that surround us, the vocabulary of illness, the absurdities of commercialized forms of mourning. Here is a frank acknowledgment of the widow’s desperation – only gradually yielding to the recognition that “this is my life now.”

Enlivened by the piercing vision, acute perception and mordant humour that are the hallmarks of the work of Joyce Carol Oates, this is an extremely moving tale of life and death, love and grief.

Reviews of A Widow’s Story: A Memoir

    • ‘A deeply intimate look at the eminent author’s “derangement of Widowhood”…Oates writes with gut-wrenching honesty and spares no one in ripping the illusions off the face of death’ Kirkus Reviews
    • ‘Oates has created an illuminating portrait of a marriage, a searing confrontation with death, an extraordinarily forthright chronicle of mourning, and a profound “pilgrimage” from chaos to coherence … her memoir of sudden widowhood will have an impact similar to Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking”’ Booklist
    • Praise for Joyce Carol Oates:
    • ‘Joyce Carol Oates is a writer who always takes your breath away’ Mail on Sunday
    • ‘Oates is a writer of extraordinary strengths. Her great subject, naturally, is love’ Guardian
    • ‘Oates is an inspired writer, and a formidable psychologist. She has a thrilling way of grasping an emotion, wasting no time and launching herself straight at the aching heart of the matter’ Independent
    • ‘Oates’s prose contains a deep felt rawness which hovers between hope, despair and love’ Guardian

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