cover image The Widow’s Guide to Dead Bastards: A Memoir

The Widow’s Guide to Dead Bastards: A Memoir

Jessica Waite. Atria, $29.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-6680-4485-8

Essayist Waite debuts with a bracing account of her husband’s sudden death and the secrets she unearthed after he was gone. In 1995, a 22-year-old Waite met and fell for Sean while they were both teaching English in Japan. They married and spent 20 years cycling between happy days and rough patches, owing in part to jobs that required frequent travel and Sean’s bipolar disorder. In 2015, Sean died of a heart attack, and as Waite combed through his belongings, she made some rattling discoveries: Sean kept massive stores of digital pornography, hoarded cannabis despite insisting he didn’t use it, carried on multiple affairs, and lied about the couple’s finances. Reeling, Waite threw herself into grief support groups and writing to cope with the betrayals. Eventually, she came to a fragile acceptance of her husband’s messy humanity. “What if the function of grief... is to guide human beings to a deeper understanding of the nature of life,” Waite asks in the book’s final pages. With startling compassion and surprising wit (“I’m looking at nine vaginas at the same time... laid out in a three-by-three grid, like the Brady Bunch family,” she writes of finding Sean’s porn stash), Waite shows how such an understanding might be achieved. This stirring study of loss and forgiveness isn’t easily forgotten. Agent: Stacey Kondla , Rights Factory. (July)