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Epilogue: A Memoir

Epilogue: A Memoir

3.8 7
by Anne Roiphe

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Widowed novelist, near seventy, ex-Park Avenue girl, ex-beatnik, ex-many other things too complicated to list here, loves big parties, summers at the beach, grandchildren, seeks interesting man for dinner and a movie.

Anne Roiphe was not quite seventy years old when her husband of nearly forty years unexpectedly passed away.


Widowed novelist, near seventy, ex-Park Avenue girl, ex-beatnik, ex-many other things too complicated to list here, loves big parties, summers at the beach, grandchildren, seeks interesting man for dinner and a movie.

Anne Roiphe was not quite seventy years old when her husband of nearly forty years unexpectedly passed away. But it was not until her daughters placed a personal ad in a literary journal that Roiphe began to consider the previously unimagined possibility of a new man. Moving between heartbreaking memories of her marriage and the pressing needs of a new day-to-day routine, Epilogue takes us on her journey into the unknown world of life after love.

Roiphe decides to reenter the dating world. But between new lunches, coffee dates, and e-mail exchanges, she wrestles with an unsettling loneliness. Recollections of marriage evoke complex, unexpected emotions on her journey through grief toward new companionship. In beautifully wrought vignettes, she recalls hailing a cab for the first time and learning to lock and unlock the front door—tasks her husband had always done.

Eloquent and astute, Epilogue tells the story of love rekindled and life remade. Roiphe offers us an elegant literary pastiche not of grief, but of hope and renewal.

Editorial Reviews

Maggie Scarf
…raw, painful and yet occasionally comic memoir of the year and a half following the sudden death of [Roiphe's] husband…Intended to be the story of the remaking of a survivor's life after a cherished partner's death, Epilogue is instead the moving, immeasurably sad story of the aftermath of an irreplaceable relationship.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

"Grief is in two parts," writes Roiphe (Fruitful; 1185 Park Avenue). "The first is loss. The second is the remaking of life." In her new memoir of late-life widowhood, she encounters the latter. Roiphe's husband, "H" (Herman), died of a heart attack after 39 years of marriage. He left stacks of publications forwarded from his office that she can't help reading-psychoanalytic case histories in which patients are known only by initials. She lives in a stunned, rhythmless disconnect, unsure how to mark time, sleep or stave off fear and loneliness. Thoughts of suicide comfort her as her former sense of independence evaporates. She struggles to manage her finances, decide where to live, keep up with the contents of her refrigerator and learn countless tasks that had always been H's. Courtship, sex and gender roles confound her as she ventures to date men she meets through Match.com and the personal ad that her daughters place on her behalf. She considers her role in her family, her circle of friends, her new "sisterhood" of widows and the broader world in which she has "no right to complain." In poignant flashes of everyday moments and memories, Roiphe tells an unflinching and unsentimental story of widowhood's stupefying disquiet, of surviving love and living on. (Sept.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Best-selling author and National Book Award nominee Roiphe (Lovingkindness) and her husband, Herman (known here as H), had been married 39 years when he collapsed and died suddenly. As Roiphe tiptoes into her new life, each event triggers a memory of H. He enjoyed cooking and did most of the shopping, so eating and going to the grocery store bring painful memories. Likewise, Roiphe had never figured out how to unlock their apartment door-H always did that-so entering and leaving home becomes another obstacle to overcome. Although friends and family invite her to lunches, dinners, and plays, Roiphe seems preoccupied with finding another male companion. She includes here detailed accounts of her numerous emails, phone calls, and dates with every available man she meets. This single-minded need to find a male companion seems strangely out of character for the feminist author. While her memoir serves an important purpose by bringing light to the often hidden subject of grief, the parade of possible suitors she presents weakens its impact and limits its appeal. Recommended with some reservations for large public collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/08.]
—Nancy R. Ives

Kirkus Reviews
A spare, trembling and troubling memoir of loss from recently widowed novelist and social commentator Roiphe (An Imperfect Lens, 2006, etc.). Flirting with (but never seriously courting) cliche, the author offers as a principal metaphor the phases of the moon, but readers must resist the urge to roll their eyes at this all-too-familiar friend and instead marvel at the intricate tale she crafts. Its structure is so fine as to be all but invisible, and each word seems like the individual beat of a human heart. Using the present-that most gossamer of tenses-throughout, she tells a series of stories about herself and her deceased husband, identified only as H. Eventually, we learn a number of things about him: He read and reread the 47 novels of Anthony Trollope; he loved Mozart and the Dutch masters. He touched his wife often, always used his key at the front door. We learn, too, about her family: her first marriage, her daughters, an estrangement from a nephew that death and time are healing. Nearing 70, the author wonders if she needs another man in her life. She tries online-dating services and relates meetings with men whose failures to be her lost husband she describes most affectingly. One persistent e-mail correspondent continually sends her pages of right-wing paranoia, yet she remains attracted to him for a long time-longer, she knows, than sense should have allowed. She recalls old friendships, examines closely the dying of the light, decides to catalog the imperfections of her husband but can criticize only his erratic driving and, worst of all, his dying. She gives away his clothes but can't decide what to do with his neckties. Her occasional flashbacks to the emergencyroom and the funeral are bright bursts of painful light. As fragile and as haunting as memory itself. Agent: Lisa Bankoff/ICM
“Radiates with raw emotion and is both painful to read and terrifying to consider. . . . No one can really prepare a woman for this passage in life, but Roiphe’s luminous memoir is a beacon of help and, ultimately, hope.”

Product Details

Blackstone Audio Inc
Publication date:
Edition description:
Unabridged, 1 MP3, 5 hours
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

A Memoir

By Anne Roiphe
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2008

Anne Roiphe
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061254628

Chapter One

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.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Anne Roiphe's seventeen books include Fruitful, a finalist for the National Book Award. She has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Vogue, Elle, Redbook, Parents, and The Guardian, and is a contributing editor to the Jerusalem Report. She lives in New York City.

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Epilogue 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!