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The Widower's Tale - a review by Debra Bradley

The Widower’s Tale

The central character in this novel is Percy Darling, a sprightly 70-year-old man, who has mostly kept to himself since his wife died more than 30 years ago. This retired librarian’s days include going for a run and reading in the run-down house he has lived in for most of his life. He is content, but he doesn’t get to stay this way.

The catalyst for change is his older daughter Clover returning home. She has left her children and husband, and can’t hang on to a job. In return for securing work for her, he allows his barn to be transformed into a preschool where she will work.

That means lots more traffic coming up his driveway, and many more incursions into his quiet life.

As in other Julia Glass novels, we meet a full cast of characters and perceive this world through their eyes. The three men who help to build a treehouse for the preschool children also contribute to the narrative from their point of view. There’s Celestino, the gardener from Guatemala who helps to build the treehouse for the children; Percy’s grandson Robert, who is flatting with an environmental activist and aiming to get into med school, following in the footsteps of his mother Trudy; and Ira, the gay preschool teacher who works with Clover.

The building of this treehouse creates a frame for the inter-relationships that drive this novel forward, culminating in an event that completely transforms the lives of Percy, Celestino and Robert. Along the way, the chapters written from these men’s perspectives gives us access to a whole world of people and competing ways of being, within Percy’s family, friends and neighbourhood.

There’s something warm and witty about Julia Glass’ writing voice and characters, so it was wonderful to realised she has a new book out called ‘Vigil Harbor’. Here’s a link to my review of Vigil Harbor.

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