The Widower’s Notebook: A Memoir

Jonathan Santlofer. Penguin, $17 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-0-14-313249-3
Writer and artist Santlofer (The Death Artist), has produced a quiet stunner of a memoir about the rocky shoals of the widower’s life. The book’s opening scene, in which his wife, Joy, dies suddenly following an operation, is strobed with cinematic verve: “I catch a last glimpse of my wife on the stretcher... all of this in split seconds, like frames of a silent movie before the emergency room doors slam shut.” From there, Santlofer writes of being “sick with a grief that has only just begun” before recounting life as an unexpected widower—numbly going through funeral routines, reaffirming his relationship with his adult daughter, nervously re-entering the dating world, finishing his wife’s book on the history of New York food (Food City)—with asides on the inner turmoil he carefully hides from the world: “I’d lost my sounding board, my reality check, my echo.” Although the author is frequently lost in a fog of detachment, the book never loses momentum, thanks in large part to his vivid writing and lack of self-indulgence. Santlofer includes a cringeworthy though hilarious chapter called “Stupid Things Said by Smart People,” which lists thoughtless things people said to him while he was in mourning (“At least your wife avoided a late-in-life divorce,” a neighbor bafflingly told him). This is a tender, moving, and resonant account of how life continues whether one wants it to or not. (July)
Reviewed on: 04/09/2018
Release date: 07/10/2018
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