After nearly four decades of marriage, Anne Roiphe's husband collapsed from a fatal heart attack in the lobby of their apartment building. In her new memoir, Epilogue, she puts to the test the old saying, “Time is the widow's friend,” as she begins rebuilding her life.
Tell me about the significance of the moon in the book.
I used the moon as a sort of organizing principle to convey this slightly out-of-time, out-of-body, out-of-self experience. I was feeling time as something I was floating through—both as if I was a moon floating through it and as if it were floating through me.
In Epilogue, you refer to people—including your late husband, “H”—by first initial rather than name. That device echoes H's professional psychoanalyst journals, which were forwarded from his office to your home after his death. Did you see the initials as another way of conveying that distanced, out-of-self experience?
Well, that, too. But really it was important to me to protect people's identities. I've been reading those journals for years, and so it was in my head as a legitimate way to protect people when you tell a story. When I was young and ruthless I probably would've given their address [laughs]. I believed everything that was true should be shared. I do still believe that secrets are the most poisonous events in people's lives, and it's important and meaningful to share our truths—that's why I am willing to share of myself completely. But I try to keep the harm to others to an absolute minimum.
The book follows your experience of adjusting to widowhood chronologically as it was happening to you, but it doesn't begin until several months after your husband's death. How did you choose the particular moment to begin the story?
I didn't begin writing this book during that emergency feeling that I had in the beginning, but I did do it fairly quickly. It was part of the restorative return to the self. Everybody does something. I'm a writer and have always been one. Writing is essential and healing and my rock of sanity. Also, the person reading this already knows that grief is terrible, and I don't think I need to add anything to that. Grief does run through the book, but I tried to keep it out. Instead I wanted to focus on how you put the living part back together. The repair is always partial and never complete. I knew I was going to find out things about myself and about the world and the way it works. I wanted to be there with my pen.