The Widow Down by the Brook: A Memoir of a Time Gone by

Mary MacNeill, Author Scribner Book Company $22 (208p) ISBN 978-0-684-85969-9
This plainspoken, nostalgic portrait of rural New England life was written in 1952, when the author was in her mid-40s, the mother of two grown sons and recovering from the recent death of her husband, Wilmot, from prostate cancer. At the urging of a friend, MacNeill, who is a librarian and journalist, wrote this account of the strange and difficult year when Wilmot grew weaker and finally passed away. With only months to live, he insisted on moving from their home in Hartford and buying a ramshackle barn in Canton Center, Conn., so that he could realize his lifelong dream of owning a house in the country. He justified this purchase as security for his wife after he died. For the next three months, until he was hospitalized, Wilmot and Mary spent every spare moment in the backbreaking labor needed to make the unheated barn livable. MacNeill's episodic prose details her husband's growing reliance on pain medication, which enabled him to continue his hard work. After his death, she accepted her grief and loneliness, intensified by the remote location of her home, with the same stoicism she showed when faced with the physical exertion involved in the restoration. MacNeill vividly describes how she gradually built a new life as the town librarian and became a part of the community. Clearly a woman who always made the best of everything, MacNeill went on to endure an on-again, off-again love relationship with a bachelor friend who still lived with his mother. They eventually married and lived together until his death 24 years later. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/03/1999
Release date: 05/01/1999
Genre: Nonfiction
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