Monday, November 1, 2010

Book Review: "The Widower's Tale" by Julia Glass

Sometimes absence really does make the heart grow fonder. It has been a while since I've read a book by Julia Glass—I loved her first two books, but skipped her third, I See You Everywhere, as it received very tepid reviews from critics. But reading her latest, The Widower's Tale, I again realized what a terrific writer she is and marveled at her ability to make characters seem like people I wish I actually knew.

Seventy-year-old Percy Darling is proud of the fact that he's a bit of a curmudgeon. Although his wife, Poppy, has been dead for many years, and he has a somewhat strained relationship with both of his daughters, he loves his historic suburban house outside of Boston, loves his routine of a morning run and a naked swim in his backyard pond, and enjoys his relationship with his grandson, Robert, a premed student at Harvard. Then he makes the decision to allow the local nursery school, Elves & Fairies, to convert his old barn into the new school facility, which brings myriad surprises into his life. He begins a relationship with local artist Sarah, whose son attends Elves & Fairies, a rapidly growing ecoterrorist group is plaguing many of the "new rich" in Percy's neighborhood, and his relationship with each of his daughters changes in different ways.

Although Percy is the center of this book, portions are also focused on Ira, a teacher at Elves & Fairies; Percy's grandson, Robert; and Celestino, a gardener who comes into contact with Percy and his family. I really enjoyed every character Glass created in this story; even though I could sense the direction of several of the story threads a bit ahead of their unfolding, that didn't affect my enjoyment of the book or the empathy I felt for the characters. If anything, I could have kept reading this. To me, one of the marks of a great book is that you keep wondering what would happen to the characters after the story ended. This is definitely one of those books.

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