Reading this novel gives you a perspective of how family situations can be complicated and touchy, but also how the family unit can be supportive of one another when it calls for it.
Percy is a seventy year old widow, who just wants to enjoy his retirement and live in peace on his rural land. His two daughters Trudy and Clover give him as much space as he needs, but the big red barn that rests in his backyard is being transformed into an elementary school—a project that has been driven by Clover.
Trudy is happily married and has one son, Robert, whom Percy just adores and makes sure to constantly touch base with (through the phone or email). Clover is in a messy divorce—which was technically her fault—leaving her to cope with the repercussions, including losing custody of her daughter and son. There is a tension between Percy and his daughters, mainly surrounding the death of their mother, Peggy. She had drowned in the lake behind the house when the girls were just tweens, and although it could not have been blamed on him, Percy strongly feels that he could have perhaps prevented the tragedy from happening. His daughters feel the same way.
Percy lives in Matlock, Maine, where he struggles with technology surrounding him in his simple country way of life. Not only is there technological change but environmental outcries too, committed by anonymous passionate extremists in the town. Percy has to learn to cope with the new school being built, get used to sending and receiving emails, open his heart to a potential partner who is one of the single mothers at the school, and try forgiving his favorite grandson for making a bad decision.
Even though Percy is the main character, many other characters are prominent in the story and have their own dramas: Robert has to balance his busy student life of living in university dorms with a complicated friend, Turo, all the while trying to study for his courses and keeping his girlfriend happy. We also learn about Celestino, an illegal immigrant and his sad love story. Then there is Ira, who is one of the teachers at the school barn, trying to accept the fact that he is a homosexual and should be publicly happy with his partner, Anthony. Percy’s love interest, Sarah, has her own difficulties to face—one of them is in relation to her health and well being.
After being introduced to the characters, you feel like you are included in this interesting “crowd” of people who just prove that humans have faults, but can find a way to redeem themselves. I would like to hear from someone who may have listened to the book. Was it well done?
To read reviews on The Widower’s Tale, please consult the links below.
From the New York Times Sunday Book Review:
From The Los Angeles Times:
For information about Julia Glass, click on the link below:
Here are some questions to ponder over:
-By the end of the novel, how has Percy changed/evolved?
-Discuss the importance of the tree house in the novel. What does it represent, if anything, to each of the four main characters?
The above questions were taken from the LitLover’s Reading Guide. You can access further questions by clicking on the link below:
In the novel, the bit about the barn turning into an elementary school may not be as far off as one might think. Apparently, old barns these days are getting make-overs for various reasons that don’t include housing actual farm equipment, stable food, or animlas. I have searched to see if there were actually any barns that were converted into schools but I didn’t get very far. However, I stumbled across a website called Inhabitat.com, which had an article explaining how a run down barn in Missouri was being used for its parts to build a new barn, which was created for other purposes: parties, conferences, and seminars. Some people have even turned their barns into office spaces or studios. Who would have thought!
This book reminded me of …
Several titles came to mind as I read this novel. It definitely has those similar ties to The Cookbook Collector because of the environment and technology aspect. It also brought back some memories from The Good Daughters because of the setting, which involves a farm located in New England. Lastly, it has a sense of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand since they both revolve around a senior man finding love again after being a widow for several years.
Favorite quote from the book:
Percy’s sarcastic and humorous thoughts sum up what many seniors are going through in this day and age when he says, “After decades at a job where the King Kong shadow of technology loomed ever larger and darker over the simple work I loved, I had fantasies of a quasi-Luddite retirement: I would revel in the pages of one obscurely significant novel after another, abandoning the world of gigabytes and hard drives. Cursed by the cursors; farewell to iEverything and all its pertly nicknamed apps. In a word, ha.” (p. 5)
Most dramatic moment in the story:
The climax of the story surprises us, when the fire happens and we know who is responsible for it. It is an upsetting moment when we see Percy’s land being affected by the same extremists who did vandalism in the town. (p. 359)
Next month’s title:
The Inverted Forest by John Dalton
Take the poll!