Reviews for Widower's Tale


Booklist Reviews 2010 June #1
*Starred Review* Glass' fourth novel is a capacious family drama with as many brimming rooms and secret nooks and crannies as the historic Massachusetts home of Percy Darling, an acerbic patriarch, penitential widower, and former librarian at Harvard's Widener Library. Percy's coveted property includes a large pond and a spacious old barn, once his late wife's dance studio, now an upscale preschool. A mischievous and erudite curmudgeon, Percy only agrees to this intrusion in the hope that his floundering daughter, Clover, will finally secure a job that makes her happy. Not that she'll ever catch up to her sister, a legendary oncologist. Masterfully omniscient and spellbinding, National Book Award winner Glass creates glimmering descriptions, escalating conflicts, and intriguing characters, such as Percy's oldest grandson, Robert, a premed student at Harvard, and his ecowarrior roommate, Arturo; Sarah, a stained-glass artist and uninsured adoptive single mother; Ira, a preschool teacher who lost a previous position when parents objected to his being gay; and Celestino, an illegal Guatemalan immigrant with high ideals and ambitions. Elaborately plotted and luxuriously paced, Glass' inquisitive, compassionate, funny, and suspenseful saga addresses significant and thorny social issues with emotional veracity, artistic nuance, and a profound perception of the grand interconnectivity of life. Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2010 September #1

Another heartwarming winner from the NBA-anointed Massachusetts author.

Glass (I See You Everywhere, 2008, etc.) observes and gently mocks her charmingly self-absorbed characters in an unmannered manner reminiscent of her popular contemporary Allegra Goodman and their accomplished forerunner Anne Tyler. This time around, age and youth, urban and small-town life, straight and gay relationships, and aesthetic and political priorities are examined with a beguiling mixture of gusto and delicacy. Focal character Percy Darling is a 70-year-old widower living in retirement (from his longtime employment at Harvard's Widener Library) not far from Boston, where he has donated to a trendy preschool use of the barn on his expansive property. The busy activities at "Elves & Fairies" stimulate bittersweet memories of Percy's late wife Poppy, who had housed a dance studio in that very barn, before perishing in a senseless accident 30 years earlier. As the novel ambles deceptively along, gathering momentum and complexity, Percy—really more of a curmudgeon than a "darling"—discovers that his life is much more than the shell of its former self he'd been prepared to accept. Glass moves the viewpoint skillfully, showing how Percy's late-life learning curve intersects with those of such variously involved characters as his elder daughter Clover, whose shaky grasp of the responsibilities of adulthood contrasts cruelly with her younger sister's career as a prominent oncologist; her nephew (and Percy's pride and joy) Robert, a Harvard pre-med student who plunges into the darkest waters of environmental activism; gay preschool teacher Ira, an unlikely source of more lessons for Percy; and "illegal" Guatemalan handyman Celestino, an optimist who just may become the man Percy has always believed himself to be. Reversals of fortune and chastening surprises are in store for them all.

Glass's perfect plot gives each character his or her due, in an irresistible pastoral tragicomedy that showcases the warmth and wisdom of one of America's finest novelists, approaching if not already arrived at her peak.

Copyright Kirkus 2010 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Journal Reviews 2010 April #2
For decades after his wife's death, Percy Darling has lived a solitary life on his farm outside of Boston. Then, to help his daughter, he lets a progressive preschool move into his barn. Another juicy read from Glass; good for book groups, perhaps paralleled with Mark Spragg's Bone Fire and Jon Clinch's Kings of the Earth, 2010 titles with intriguing senior protagonists. With a ten-city tour; reading group guide. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

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Library Journal Reviews 2010 September #1

At 70, retired Harvard librarian Percy Darling has turned into a bit of a crank. The gentrification of his quaint New England village and the technological shift in libraries are among his many gripes. The latest assault on Percy's peace and contentment is the presence of a day care he has allowed his daughter to build on his historic property. Multistranded plotlines intersect and connect the others who orbit Percy's world: single mother Sarah, with whom Percy forms an attachment after years of self-imposed monkhood; Percy's daughters Trudy, a renowned breast cancer consultant, and Clover, suffering through a messy custody dispute; his grandson, Robert, whose friends are involved in underground environmental activism; Celestino, a Guatemalan gardener with immigration problems; and Ira, a gay day care worker who had been falsely accused of improper conduct at his previous school. VERDICT As she has done so compellingly in earlier novels (e.g., Three Junes), Glass brings together familiar themes, sympathetic characters, and multiple story lines in a harmonious mashup that is sure to enchant her many fans. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 4/15/10.]--Barbara Love, Kingston Frontenac P.L., Ont.

[Page 99]. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2010 July #3

Percy Darling, 70, the narrator of Glass's fourth novel, takes comfort in certitudes: he will never leave his historic suburban Boston house, he is done with love (still guilty about his wife's death 30 years ago), and his beloved grandson Robert, a Harvard senior, will do credit to the family name. But Glass (Three Junes) spins a beautifully paced, keenly observed story in which certainties give way to surprising reversals of fortune. Percy is an opinionated, cantankerous, newly retired Harvard librarian and nobody's "darling," who decides to lease his barn to a local preschool, mainly to give his daughter Clover, who has abandoned her husband and children in New York, a job. Percy's other daughter is a workaholic oncologist in Boston who becomes important to a young mother at the school with whom Percy, to his vast surprise, establishes a romantic relationship. Meanwhile, Percy's grandson, Robert, falls in with an ecoterrorist group. Glass handles the coalescing plot elements with astute insights into the complexity of family relationships, the gulf between social classes, and our modern culture of excess to create a dramatic, thought-provoking, and immensely satisfying novel. (Sept.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

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