From Anne Roiphe, the critically acclaimed author of Fruitful, comes the New York Times bestselling Epilogue, a beautiful memoir about death, life, and widowhood. Roiphe explores what happened when, at age 70, she lost her husband of 40 years. Moving between heartbreaking memories of her marriage and the pressing needs of a new day-to-day routine, Epilogue takes readers on her journey into the unknown world of life after love.
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By Anne Roiphe
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2008
All right reserved.
Ten o'clock at night, there I am standing at the front door of my apartment. I have a key but will not use it. Instead I turn the knob, because I have left the door unlocked. I left it unlocked because I wasn't sure I could make the key work. For the thirty-nine years of our marriage my husband always pulled out his key and opened the door when we returned from an evening out. During the day I left the door unlocked. We had a doorman. I trusted my neighbors. I found keys (so subject to loss, so hard sometimes to turn, was it right or left that it should go?) a man's responsibility. Was this a sexual reading of the act, a pun of the unconscious? Perhaps. But now, more significantly, it was a protest against the loss of something far more necessary than a key: my husband, H.
It was not a beautiful bonzai. It was a scraggly dwarf of a few twigs that still held their green needles. Two of the branches were bare. Nearby there was a small stone and a tiny gray statue of a Chinese man, fishing. He wore a wide-brimmed peasant hat. My youngest daughter had given this plant to H. for Father's Day two years ago. He had nursed it with Miracle-Gro, watered it daily. He shifted it around to catch the sunlight. He carried it with us to our beach home. He put fresh dirt at the four-inch porcelain Chinese man's feet every few months. This bonzaihad not died. It hadn't thrived either. I wanted to throw it out. He protested. Don't kill a living plant. Now brown needles fall from some of the branches. Today I throw it out. I know it's still alive. It carries with it his affection. But no matter what I do, each day more needles fall. I do not have the gift. I do not love this stunted plant.
Grief is in two parts. The first is loss. The second is the remaking of life. This book is about the second. Although the division between the two parts is not a line, a wall or a chasm. Think of grief as a river that finally runs into the ocean where it is absorbed but not dissolved, pebbles, moss, fish, twigs from the smallest upland stream run with it and finally float in the salt sea from which life emerged.
I am now a single woman. There is no one at home to call when I am away. Self-pity is never useful. It tends to distort like a fun-house mirror. Nevertheless I indulge myself—heavy helpings of self-pity. Then I stop.
I am going out on a date. I have spoken to a stranger, a man, and arranged to meet him for lunch at a café a few blocks from my building. He sent me a letter in response to a personal advertisement my grown daughters placed for me in the New York Review of Books. It said that I was a writer. It said that I was attractive. They think so or else they were lying. They said that I loved the ocean and books. That was true. I didn't read the ad. I was embarrassed. But I was pleased they placed it. Why not? Who knows what waits for me out there among the throngs of divorced and wifeless hordes who might be willing to meet me over the hill? Once I had read in an Edmund Wilson essay of his dislike of women past menopause. He said they were like dried fruits, withered on the vine. The juice was gone. I understood what he meant. Although the words stabbed my heart even then, before I was forty. What about your juice? I had written in the margins of the book. But I knew that crones were female and old men were kings, stallions, and producers of heirs. Saul Bellow had a baby at the age of eighty-three. He didn't live long enough after that for her to play Cordelia to his Lear.
The stranger had written a charming letter. He loved books. He loved music. He had wanted to be a writer but had become a public relations executive. He was divorced and he was sixty-nine years old. His letter was on gray stationery with a red border. I will call him P.J. I phoned. His voice was very hoarse and faint. He told me he had reached up to a shelf in his closet for a suitcase that was filled with old books and it had fallen on his throat. I thought about beloved books stored in a suitcase. I agreed to a Sunday lunch.
The stranger met me at a bistro around my corner. I saw him approach. He was short and thin and he had a white mustache. He had a gait that was something like a trot. Like a pony, he moved steadily toward me. We ate our salads and talked. His hands were very veined and age-spotted. I didn't mind, but he didn't seem to be sixty-nine and a lie is like a broken step on the stairway to heaven. His voice was so weak that I had to lean into his space in order to hear his words. He told me he loved Proust and Stendhal and Thomas Mann. He had been divorced ten years. He didn't want to tell me why. His hands shook and trembled. Did he have a disease or was he nervous? He never had any children. He wanted to retire to the Caribbean. He told me that customs had changed since I was a girl and asked me if I understood what was expected in today's dating world. His hand was on my knee. His other hand was stroking my arm up and down as if it were a horse's nose. We had known each other for exactly twenty-five minutes. How does a suitcase on a closet shelf fall on a throat? I tried to imagine it.
Excerpted from Epilogue by Anne Roiphe
Copyright © 2008 by Anne Roiphe. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Epilogue a Memoir by Anne Roiphe does not only describe the lost of her beloved Husband H, but the difficulties she has faced through out all her life. With each issue she had countered, whether it was going through the lost of her mother to her divorce in her first marriage, she had the courage to let her pain out gracefully then let her adversities get to her character. One major theme in this book is the wisdom of growing older. Anne learned that with each challenge that was brought to her in life, the challenge made her stronger. Another theme would be love. Anne had the fear that if she could never love again. That she might not be able to find someone to complete her like H did, that she was destined to be a "loveless corpse" for the rest of her life. Her daughters encourage her to go on a dating website to see if she can maybe find someone who can keep her entwine with her like H did. Anne agrees, and goes through many trials of emails of men who don't just comfort her, but teach her new lessons about herself. The writing metaphors and similes in this book were justly enjoyable. The reader truthfully feels that your right their having a heart to heart connection with her on the lessons of life. Their were some grammar issues that I did not like such as using and repeatedly when you easily can use colons to separate the list for use of and. Through out the book though, the reader will get use to the improper grammar usage and be exhilarated for her fluent vocabulary. Similar works the reader might take pleasure in reading is Tuesday's with Morrie by Mitch Ablom. This book has a similar theme of having a thoughtful loving connection to the main character (Morrie) and his powerful outlooks on life. This is a book for someone who is fond of writers that engrave within their heart.
I thought the book was well written. It was sensitive and covered so many subjects. I would recommend this book for anyone suffering a loss, or for those who are friends with those who are going through grief to experience a better understanding. It had many highs, and many lows, but I appreciated both as a necessary part of the process. The author is a sensitive, caring individual, but not in any way dramatic or depressing in her writing. It is all from the heart, and I loved the book and have since purchased it for a few friends.
This is a book I hesitated to pick up because the topic is one of my fears - the feelings of a woman whose husband has died after many years of a close relationship. I read it because I had read and enjoyed other books by this author. The book is honest, beautifully written. I lost myself in this book, and that doesn't often happen. Thank you to the author for writing this book.
Anne Roiphe had been married to H for 39 years when he died, suddenly, of a heartattack. The author, in her 60¿s, expects to live many more years. But how, after 39 years of marriage, do you start to build a life without your beloved husband? Anne picks up where Joan Didion in ¿Year of Magical Thinking¿ left off. ¿Epilogue¿ explores how she began to rejoin the living, even when she didn¿t want to. Her daughters, convinced she needs another husband, put a personal ad in the New York Times Book Review seeking a mate for her. Her subsequent adventures in dating are sometimes hilarious and sometimes heartbreaking, but always honest. In the end, Anne discovers that a new man may not be what she needs at all. I thought this was an absolutely groundbreaking book! Many women are widowed at a time when they can expect to live many years beyond their spouse. Anne gives us a glimpse of what life is like for these women and the unique emotional and practical issues they face. I appreciated her dedication to honesty, even when it showed her in a less then favorable light. Many of her dating stories provided much needed comic relief. In the end, this is a story of a woman who learns that she is stronger then she ever knew. I listened to the audio version of this book and Lorna Raver¿s narration fits the memoir perfectly. I especially loved her querulous response to friends her tell her to dye her hair ¿I don¿t want to.¿ Unless, of course, she can dye it purple!