honestly guys until you go through something like this you don't know what you are talking about. I tried and looked ok pretty soon after becoming a widow but nobody knew what was going on inside. Yes even sunshine was bothering me because it hurt my crying eyes.
Confess I felt a lot of frustration at first, reading this. It gives the impression that absolutely no one could have done anything to alleviate JCO's desperation and anguish - that nothing would have worked. But - by the end of the book, I came to realize that perhaps, that was so. She and her husband were devoted to each other. I came to understand how utterly bereft she felt when he died - how they had been almost a nation of two, separate but completely dependent on each other. However - I have to agree with the commenter who calls this book a "pity party" - there were many times I wanted to reach into its pages and give JCO a good hard smack (something she even suggests, at one point, she might have benefitted from). She seemed lost in the negatives of the situation, kept thinking of suicide, and couldn't even take joy from delightful things Ray Smith had left behind - even finding his beautiful garden offensive at first. There was no celebration of his rich life - only annoying wailing about the position in which his death had left her and a resistance to accepting comfort, even from friends. I grew weary of the "only-a-widow-understands-a-widow" schtick and the frequent reminders that all these happy wives she sees around her are likely going to be widows one day too. The main take-away for me, from this, was how unfortunate people are when they have neither faith, nor children - two things that bring extraordinary meaning to life. Poor JCO. For all her amazing, prolific career, she is quite pathetic and annoying here. Only on the first page of Chapter 50 is there any relief from the howling nagging relentless anguish of being "the widow" - when she FINALLY thinks more positively about Ray and realizes how good his life had been and how he probably never saw his death coming, so didn't suffer. Mind you, that happy thought lasted less than a paragraph and took a lot of slogging through miserable wastelands to get to.... But the book seemed to me to get better after this revelation - more palatable.
This is the first book I have read by Joyce Carol Oates and only read it because she was on "Sunday Morning" on CBC with Michael Enright. I was so angry reading this book, as Ms. Oakes was so negative about anything, that anybody tried to do for her when her husband passed away. It was like a "pitty party" for Joyce. My mother was widowed at 54 years of age after 36 years of marriage, but she coped and got on with her life, although it did take time. I believe this woman was so coddled and protected by her late husband that she could not function without him and that is probably why she remarried after his death. I don't think I will be reading any more of her books, I truly didn't like her writing style.
"We were in a car wreck," Joyce Carol Oates begins. "My husband died but I survived." And then, in the very next line, she pulls that beginning away: "This is not (factually) true. But in all other ways, it is true." Oates and her husband, Raymond Smith, were struck by a speeding car while driving through a Princeton intersection early in 2007; the front end of their vehicle was totaled, but they were fortunate to escape with heavy bruising and acid burns from the exploding air bags. ("Vaguely you might expect something cushiony, even balloon-like--no.") They are rattled by the experience, but settle back into their routine. Oates reflects, "It would have been a time to say Look—we might have been killed last night! I love you, I'm so grateful that I am married to you... but the words didn't quite come." Thirteen months later, Ray died in the hospital of a staph infection that struck while he was recuperating from pneumonia.
Oates has pulled herself back from the brink of despair but also has been able to articulate a despair that all of us are in time likely to feel, to reassure us that this raw pain is both normal and survivable.
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