Customer Reviews for

A Widow's Story: A Memoir

Average Rating 3.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

26 out of 30 people found this review helpful.

This memoir is about Ms. Oates' efforts to move on from the unexpected death of a loved one

In February 2008, Ontario review Editor Raymond Smith was not feeling well so his wife of almost five decades noted author Joyce Carol Oates drove him to the Princeton Medical Center. He was diagnosed with pneumonia and admitted as a patient. Both he and his spouse ex...
In February 2008, Ontario review Editor Raymond Smith was not feeling well so his wife of almost five decades noted author Joyce Carol Oates drove him to the Princeton Medical Center. He was diagnosed with pneumonia and admitted as a patient. Both he and his spouse expected him to come home in a few days. Instead he developed an infection and died one week later.

This memoir is about Ms. Oates' efforts to move on from the unexpected death of a loved one. Everything reminded her how alone she had become and how much she missed her beloved partner. Ms. Oates confesses she initially expected Raymond to appear any moment to help her with the physical and monetary impacts of his death. However, as she wept agonizingly slowly through the passes of grieving, she realized it is the little things in life that enabled Joyce Smith to survive the biggest tragedy she ever faced. This is an insightful first-hand look at grieving as Ms. Oates confirms grief is personally customized to the loving survivor.

Harriet Klausner

posted by harstan on February 1, 2011

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Most Helpful Critical Review

5 out of 34 people found this review helpful.

Really? Another Memoir?

Joyce Carol Oates, if ever brave, was so at the start of her career. Now, long since the lost days, Oates has authored what I currently consider a vanity. This memoir, or any reflective musings, are best practiced and penned by anyone other than a writer. It adds nothin...
Joyce Carol Oates, if ever brave, was so at the start of her career. Now, long since the lost days, Oates has authored what I currently consider a vanity. This memoir, or any reflective musings, are best practiced and penned by anyone other than a writer. It adds nothing to a life lived reading subjective plodding texts, inclusive of every cankering slight, life shift, the unfortunate death of a spouse or a sudden awareness that the entire populated earth has experienced. Leave the author to her niche, though indeed unrecognized by the larger awards, her short stories and the dentist to his legitimately earned memoir.

posted by ChrisRoberts on February 15, 2011

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  • Posted February 1, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    This memoir is about Ms. Oates' efforts to move on from the unexpected death of a loved one

    In February 2008, Ontario review Editor Raymond Smith was not feeling well so his wife of almost five decades noted author Joyce Carol Oates drove him to the Princeton Medical Center. He was diagnosed with pneumonia and admitted as a patient. Both he and his spouse expected him to come home in a few days. Instead he developed an infection and died one week later.

    This memoir is about Ms. Oates' efforts to move on from the unexpected death of a loved one. Everything reminded her how alone she had become and how much she missed her beloved partner. Ms. Oates confesses she initially expected Raymond to appear any moment to help her with the physical and monetary impacts of his death. However, as she wept agonizingly slowly through the passes of grieving, she realized it is the little things in life that enabled Joyce Smith to survive the biggest tragedy she ever faced. This is an insightful first-hand look at grieving as Ms. Oates confirms grief is personally customized to the loving survivor.

    Harriet Klausner

    26 out of 30 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 26, 2011

    Recommended

    Perhaps it is those who have recently lost a loved one who would be attracted to this memoir. This appears to be the case from the other reviews that appear on this page. This may be because of an earnestness, a desperation, that pervades the thoughts of the bereaved. I have recently experienced a death in my family. I disclose this only for context and I will say no more about it, except to say that when I read about Ms. Oates' memoir in the New York Review of Books and The New Yorker I was immediately drawn to it. Her book does a good job of describing the personal and spiritual disintegration that occurs following a death.

    Two things undermine the power of this book. The first is the author's unabashed self involvement. She often refers to herself in the third person as "the widow." I cannot think of any third person self reference as not being pretentious unless it is self deprecating. If you lose someone you love dearly, your are disarmed and wounded by this death, and all roads lead to the one you have lost. Ms. Oates makes it clear that she was plenty wounded by the death of her husband, yet all roads lead to her. She soon ceases to be the victim of her bereavement and instead uses it to interpret how she perceives her life and the actions of those around her. Where for some, bereavement allows them to explore avenues of compassion toward others, especially those clumsy in conveying their sympathy, not so for Ms. Oates. She points out that practically everything and everybody is insensitive to what she is going through and woe unto those who would tread upon her anger and loss.

    The second is that the author is Joyce Carol Oates, a literary powerhouse who does not experience ordinary life the way the rest of us do. If she writes about a letter or a conversation with a friend or colleague, it is Edmund Wilson, John Updike, or Phillip Roth. In this way the book becomes an inroad to the literary life populated by those with the calling and considerable talent to be writers. I admit this enthralled me, but it removed her experience from my own.

    Yet this memoir bears its gifts for the bereaved. When the author is going through a bag of cards and letters she received after her husband's death, finally able to do so, she uncovers a gem: "You will be grief stricken for the rest of your life, but don't lose your vitality." And this, quoted in the New York Review of Books' article:

    "We who are living - we who have survived - understand that our guilt is what links us to the dead. At times we can hear them calling to us, a growing incredulity in their voices You will not forget me - with you? How can you forget me? I have no one but you."

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 20, 2011

    Helpful to those have lost a loved one.

    This memoir was helpful to me in many ways after I have been through the loss of too many loved ones in the past 5 years. She shows wonderful depth, and insight into the world of those who have lost and are coping and attempting to integrate those losses into their lives as they move forward. That being said-this book also seems to be an outlet for several petty slights, differences with those who do not matter to the author and to those who are unable or unfortunate enough to have gotten on Mrs. Smiths (Oates) bad side (administration at the university) or unlucky enough to have sent her a condolence card. Her manners for those who attempt in their own foundling way to convey their condolence-is not forgivable. There are times where she seem to take particular joy in cutting them down via her reader. This is unprofessional and unfair. I know first hand family members who have behaved with more bravery and decency than this author when faced with 3x the tragedy. I am not going to be looking for more of her novels anytime soon.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 15, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Really? Another Memoir?

    Joyce Carol Oates, if ever brave, was so at the start of her career. Now, long since the lost days, Oates has authored what I currently consider a vanity. This memoir, or any reflective musings, are best practiced and penned by anyone other than a writer. It adds nothing to a life lived reading subjective plodding texts, inclusive of every cankering slight, life shift, the unfortunate death of a spouse or a sudden awareness that the entire populated earth has experienced. Leave the author to her niche, though indeed unrecognized by the larger awards, her short stories and the dentist to his legitimately earned memoir.

    5 out of 34 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2012

    Very very long journy

    The first few hundred pages were engaging...the rest took me weeks to slog through only necause i dojnt giveup on a book easily..i love this woman and what she has experienced but it became a ramble

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2012

    Highly recommended

    Joyce Carol Oates' angst is so keenly expressed that the reader becomes part of her story. It is impossible not to feel her pain, her fright at being left alone, and her second guessing about what she could have done to prevent this death.

    I suggested that a friend of mine who was newly widowed read this book. She was expressing the same kind of feelings about the fears of being alone, the thought that maybe there was something she missed that could have prolonged her husband's life. My friend felt somewhat relieved to have her feelings expressed by a writer we have been reading for several years.

    This is a book that engages women of any age.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 27, 2011

    For widows only

    Joyce carol oates has written a very descriptive portral of what it feels to be a widow i lost my husband suddenly to pneumonia also. If you want to get a clear understanding of what a widow goes through when she loses her husband and the life she knew, read this book. It helped me to realize that i am not going crazy.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 1, 2011

    talk about sad and painful

    I have always loved her books. She expressed what I think I would be feeling had my husband died unexpectedly. Painful but worth the time.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 20, 2011

    LOVED IT!

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Posted May 4, 2011

    Beautifully Courageous

    Any time a woman writer dares to reveal the truth behind the mask, especially when it is "unseemly," she is reaching out her hand in compassion to every woman. In "A Widow's Story" Joyce Carol Oates unmasks herself, sometimes brutally, and through her courage we, the readers, are given an opportunity to see and honor the fralities of our own humanity and that of others in the face tragedy. I am truly sorry that Ms. Oates had to experience such a devastating loss, and yet so grateful that she transformed her anguish into a gift to others.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 19, 2011

    wonderful book

    very heartfelt and enlightening. one i will come back to again and again.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 19, 2015

    I was looking for support when I bought this book having had sev

    I was looking for support when I bought this book having had several deaths in the family in a short time span.  The first chapters are fine
     but the material becomes very self-centered and repetitive.  I did finish the book albeit grudgingly! 

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2014

    Sex Story

    "Are you sure we wont get in trouble?' Asked Melody. "Of course not babe. We did it at that party." Said her boyfriend Max. He led her to a room upstairs. "It looks like a supply closet," said Melody. "Oh yeah? Watch this." Max put in a secret combination and the wall opened up. "Woah! This is like a mansion!" Says Melody. They got to it. Humping, doggy style, oral, anal, you name it. They never told ayonewhat happened that night or at the party. Three months later....
    "Sweety, I have to tell you something. I'm.. I'm... I'm pregnant." Max stood there in shock. "You're what?!?!" Max stood there in rage, confusion, and anger. "You are such an idiot! Why eould you tell me that!?" Max screamed. "Well you are the father you should show me at least SOME respect!!!" Melody yelled, close to tears. "We are through!!!!" Max screamed as he stormed out. Six months later....
    "Come on push Melody! It's not that hard!" "I'm only 16!" After hours of labor and pain, melody gave birth to twins. A boy and a girl. She named them Maxwell and Harmony. Melody never saw Max again. She married at the age 25 and had two more beautiful kids. Their names were Eliza and Hampton. Unlike their Dad, Maxwell and Melody grew up to be lawyers. Eliza and Hampton grew up and started voulenteering a the zoo. Melody and her husbandlived to an old age. THE END!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2014

    Contest winner

    Sex story

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  • Posted April 4, 2014

    Definitely recommended

    I found this book quite moving. I wanted to reach out and help in some way to alleviate the bereft woman and realized I was simply a witness to the author's grief and loneliness. I was glad to see the glimmers of light and recovery as the book progressed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2014

    Not Great

    Not great!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2013

    I definitely can understand her pain, and I am well acquainted w

    I definitely can understand her pain, and I am well acquainted with grief. But the writing -- stream of consciousness -- made it difficult to feel engaged. I understand she felt overwhelmed by the gifts, but instead of recognizing the sincere caring and love that they represented...she literally just trashed them. I did not identify with her anger at the delivery men and the seemingly put-upon anger at throwing everything old. I understand anger as a stage of grief, but for heaven's sake: angry at the cats? I am not done yet, though I do intend to finish it. Part of my discomfort with parts of the book could be simply the fact that I, unfortunately, chose the holiday season to begin reading it; I had to put it aside often, as this has been a difficult time in my own life, and I need to be upliftted. Poor timing on my part. (The referring to herself in the third-person, as "The Widow," was a bit disturbing.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2013

    I just could not finish this book. I lost interest  reading all

    I just could not finish this book. I lost interest  reading all the e-mails (too personal) and the poetry readings. Redundant in her use of the word "widow" pushed me over the edge. Sorry

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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