The Widower’s Tale by Julia Glass

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After “living with” Percy Darling and his family and friends for the past couple of months, I miss them. Percy is the main character in Julia Glass’s most recent novel, The Widower’s Tale, and I listened to stories of their lives while living my own. I miss them. They were so real to me that I want to walk around Harvard Square and look for Robert, a student at Harvard and Percy’s grandson.  As I listened to the final CD, I found myself stopping and listening to certain passages again just to extend my time with these characters.  I loved Three Junes, Glass’s 2002 National Book Award-winning novel, and now this one joins my growing list of books I was sad to finish.

Most of the novel takes place in the fictional Massachusetts town of Matlock. To me, it’s Carlisle, a suburb west of Boston. Every descriptive sentence about Matlock made me think Glass was writing about Carlisle. Seventy-year-old Percy, resident of Matlock and a retired librarian, is the center of this rich and warm story. Widowed for many years at the start of the novel, he is the father of two adult daughters, one an oncologist in a Boston hospital and the other the assistant director of a preschool. One of the things I found most compelling about the book was Percy’s relationship with his daughters.  Glass realistically conveys the misunderstandings of everyday life that can make our family relationships so complicated.

Glass’s novel also addresses some of the big issues of life in the 21st century: race, socioeconomic differences, gay marriage, cancer and the environment. The Widower’s Tale would be a terrific book club novel. Good story. Lots to discuss. Thought provoking.  Add it to your “to read” list – you will not be disappointed.

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