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March 2011This book details not only a 'siege,' as Oates puts it, but also a pilgrimage - one that tracks the author's journey through the complicated stages of her grief. It is an intimate, unflinching portrait of a woman who has remained somewhat of an enigma, though a prolific and respected one. Raymond Smith, Oates' husband of 48 years and the editor of the Ontario Review, died unexpectedly in 2008. In a literary and yet wrenching account, Oates leaves nothing out as readers stumble along with her and discover what it means to be a 'widow.' -- Jenny Lyons, The King's English, Salt Lake City, UT
Critics across the country have raved about Joyce Carol Oatess ground-breaking memoir A Widows Story, lauding its blazing honesty and raw emotion, calling it immensely moving, searing, enthralling, brave, slyly mordant, and astonishingly candid.
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. In less than a week, Ray died from a hospital-acquired virulent infectionand Joyce was suddenly faced with the stunning reality of widowhood.
A Widows Story illuminates one womans struggle to comprehend a life absent of the partnership that had sustained and defined her for nearly half a century. As never before, 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. Here is a frank acknowledgment of the widows desperationonly gradually yielding to the recognition that this is my life now.
Enlivened by the piercing vision, acute perception, and mordant humor that are the hallmarks of the work of Joyce Carol Oates, this moving tale of life and death, love and grief, offers a candid, never-before-glimpsed view of this acclaimed author and fiercely private woman.
About the Author
Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Book Award, the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction, and the National Humanities Medal, our government's highest civilian honor for the arts. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including the national bestsellers We Were the Mulvaneys, Blonde, which was nominated for the National Book Award, and the New York Times bestseller The Falls, which won the 2005 Prix Femina. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978. In 2003 she received the Commonwealth Award for Distinguished Service in Literature, and in 2006 she received the Chicago Tribune Lifetime Achievement Award. She is the 2010 recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award. Joyce Carol Oates lives in Princeton, New Jersey.
Praise for A Widow's Story: A Memoir…
“As much a portrait of a unique marriage as a chronicle of grief...immensely moving…“ -People
“In a narrative as searing as the best of her fiction, Oates describes the aftermath of her husband Ray’s unexpected death from pneumonia…It’s the painful, scorchingly angry journey of a woman struggling to live in a house “from which meaning has departed, like air leaking from a balloon.” -Entertainment Weekly
“Joyce Carol Oates’s new memoir, A Widow’s Story, is a naked confession about the messy relation of art to life…A Widow’s Story, while about life after the death of a husband, is also about the intense inner life of a female genius…” -Elle
“…A cascade-of-consciousness that will mostly mesmerize you and surely move you…a book more painfully self-revelatory than anything Oates the fiction writer or critic has ever dared to produce.” -New York Times Book Review
“…As enthralling as it is painful…a searing account…It is characteristic of Oates’s superb balancing of the intellectual and the emotional that she enables a reader to experience Smith’s death in the dramatic way she herself did.” -Washington Post
“Flourishes of black humor punctuate the drumbeat of grief, setting the book apart from works such as Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking.” -Wall Street Journal
“A brave, dark but slyly mordant memoir…Oates rages at the dying of the light of her life in this unflinching, generous portrait of the terror of emptiness.” -National Public Radio
“The novelist and essayist pens her most intimate book about the death of her husband of 46 years. Judging by the excerpt in The New Yorker Oates’ memoir will join Antonia Fraser and Joan Didion on the shelf of essential works on loss.” -Daily Beast
“Oates’ raw emotion lifts the veil of the enormity of grief that most widows, and widowers, must feel at the loss of their partners in a way that will come as a shock to some and a relief to others.” -Minneapolis Star Tribune
“A Widow’s Story is unlike anything Oates has written before…a poignant and raw examination of the obsessiveness and self-indulgence of grief…” -Denver Post
“A harrowing tale…” -Detroit News
“…Astonishingly candid…[Oates’s] suffering gushes forth in page after page of detailed prose, snatches of sentences, reportorial and intuitive, emotional and reflective…Oates set out to write a widow’s handbook. What she has accomplished is a story of a marriage.” -Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Reads like a rending of garments…” -Cleveland Plain Dealer
“A vivid and urgent memoir…” -Dallas Morning News
“Oates writes movingly about the terror, depression and suicidal ruminations that dominated her existence in the months after Smith’s death…it’s impossible to be unmoved by Oates’ “Story,” by the degree to which she sees her husband everywhere she looks, as she finds beauty in the elusive notion of renewal.” -Kansas City Star
“This is a brave, haunting, heart-rending book, and it will never let you go.” -Providence Journal
“Joyce Carol Oates writes like a force of nature, and a story emerges, as if organically, from the physicality of her grief. There are few secrets and no lies, only insights into the inner world of her partner of 50 years.” -Financial Times
“Widowhood for Oates is a rough, disfiguring condition, one that mocks past happiness. Words are her salvation. “A Widow’s Story” is a brave book that carries its author through the contortions of doubt and despair, on a pilgrimage back to life.” -Charleston Post & Courier
“Packed with moments of…frankness…” -Seattle Weekly
“An affecting portrait of anguish.” -The Economist
“Astonishing…revelatory…[A Widow’s Story] is remarkable…for how candidly Oates explores the writer’s secret life: the private world of her marriage, which…she asserts is far truer and more real, and of far greater importance, than any of her imaginary creations.” -Book Forum
“Oates excellently conveys the disconnect between the inwardly chaotic self and the outwardly functioning person…” -New York Review of Books
“[Oates] shines a bright light in every corner in her soul-searing memoir of widowhood.” -Publishers Weekly
“A wildly unhinged, 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...Oates continues to keep her readers guessing at her next thrilling effort.” -Kirkus
“As a writer, heightened emotion is the essential ingredient in [Oates’] work…As A Widow’s Story progresses, it becomes [Raymond Smith’s] story--both an homage to a decent, intensely private man, and Oates’ way of keeping him in memory as she probes his most closely guarded self.” -Seattle Times