Young Widower: A Memoirby John W. Evans
John W. Evans was twenty-nine years old and his wife, Katie, was thirty. They had met in the Peace Corps in Bangladesh, taught in Chicago, studied in Miami, and were working for a year in Romania when they set off with friends to hike into the Carpathian Mountains. In an instant their life together was shattered. Katie became separated from the group. When Evans… See more details below
John W. Evans was twenty-nine years old and his wife, Katie, was thirty. They had met in the Peace Corps in Bangladesh, taught in Chicago, studied in Miami, and were working for a year in Romania when they set off with friends to hike into the Carpathian Mountains. In an instant their life together was shattered. Katie became separated from the group. When Evans finally found her, he could only watch helplessly as she was mauled to death by a brown bear.
In such a love story, such a life story, how could a person ever move forward? That is the question Evans, traumatized and restless, confronts in this book as he learns the language of grief, the rhetoric of survival, and the contrary algorithms of holding fast and letting go. His memories of Katie and their time together, and the strangeness of his life with her family in the year after her death, create an unsentimental but deeply moving picture of loss, the brutality of nature, and the unfairness of needing to narrate a story that nothing can prepare a person to tell.
Told with unyielding witness, elegance, and care, Young Widower is a heartbreaking account of a senseless tragedy and the persistence of grief in a young person’s life.
“This book brims with unforgettable images and moments, but Evans’s greatest achievement is allowing readers to see his wife, Katie, as he did—not as a saint or as a martyr, but as a passionate and dynamic and flawed woman whom he deeply loved.”—Justin St. Germain, author of Son of a Gun
"While the haunting account of the day Katie died is especially riveting, it is the unfolding and cathartic grieving process that underpins and elevates this heartbreaking tale."—Margaret Flanagan, Booklist
"Though the tragedy of Evans's title is borne out, his memoir brims with maturity and authenticity, and it should find a ready readership with those who have lived through incredible loss. Young Widower is both a loving tribute to a cherished spouse and a testament to survival."—Michelle Anne Schingler, ForeWord
"For those times when life is bitter and unreasonable, there are stories like John's—books that accept the ugliness of both death and survival and remind us to be grateful and angry and preciously alive."—Books J'Adore
Wallace Stegner fellow Evans (Creative Writing/Stanford Univ.) mourns the untimely death of his wife. The author's wife, Katie, died horrifically at the age of 30, killed by a bear during a walk in the Carpathian Mountains near Bucharest, Romania, and the author was there to witness her death. Katie had been athletic, bright and beautiful, and she worked in public health, while her husband taught English. She and Evans had met in the Peace Corps in Bangladesh, and during their seven years together, they lived in Chicago, Miami and Bucharest. Evans recalls their brief life as a couple in flashbacks, eschewing chronology. Though he vividly recounts the circumstances of Katie's exceptional death, this is the author's story, a memoir of grieving and consolation, of trying to define a young widower's public face and private essence. "I have three soft-cover notebooks in which I wrote daily accounts of my life during that year," he writes. "The journal is a matter of will and record. I wanted to survive grief. I feared I would lose, with time, the intensity of my reactions." Evans takes us with him through the many elements of the tragedy and aftermath: the funeral, the family relations, the therapy, the insurance settlement and the banking arrangements. Often, the heartfelt support of family and friends was insufficient to assuage the survivor's guilt or the wrenching pain. The emotional narrative is a study in loss, a confession and a search for meaning. The year after Katie died, the writer lived in a room in the back of the house of his sister-in-law and her family in Indiana. "My time in Indiana evolves in stages: grieving widower, live-in uncle, surrogate," he writes. "I am less often the interloper….Vulnerable and partially present, I live in small incidents of grief that bring us together." An urgent, palpably emotional account of coping with extreme grief.
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