Book 19 of my 2014 Reading Challenge
The Widower's Tale by Julia Glass
Summary (via Goodreads)
In a historic farmhouse outside Boston, seventy-year-old Percy Darling is settling happily into retirement; reading novels, watching old movies, and swimming naked in his pond. His routines are disrupted, however, when he is persuaded to let a locally beloved preschool take over his barn. As Percy sees his rural refuge overrun by children, parents, and teachers, he must reexamine the solitary life he has made in the three decades since the sudden death of his wife. No longer can he remain aloof from his community, his two grown daughters, or, to his shock, the precarious joy of falling in love.
One relationship Percy treasures is the bond with his oldest grandchild, Robert, a premed student at Harvard. Robert has long assumed he will follow in the footsteps of his mother, a prominent physician, but he begins to question his ambitions when confronted by a charismatic roommate who preaches - and begins to practice - an extreme form of ecological activism, targeting Boston's most affluent suburbs.
Meanwhile, two other men become fatefully involved with Percy and Robert: Ira, a gay teacher at the preschool, and Celestino, a Guatemalan gardener who works for Percy's neighbor, each one striving to overcome a sense of personal exile. Choices made by all four men, as well as by the women around them, collide forcefully on one spring evening, upending everyone's lives, but none more radically than Percy's.
My OpinionThe first few chapters were very slow and I had to force myself to continue (both because this was our book club selection and because I always finish the books I start). I was pleasantly surprised when the story picked up steam and became a quick, enjoyable read.
I didn't have any trouble distinguishing between the voices of the four men and the transitions were seamless; it was nice to have the chapters build on each other with new situations instead of repeating the same interactions as four different people saw them.
I thought Percy and Celestino, as well as the supporting characters, were well-written. Ira was the main character we got to know the least, and although a lot of writing was dedicated to Robert, I didn't think his connection to Turo was shown throughout the book (I was very surprised by Robert's reaction to everything at the end because I didn't know he had been as suckered in as he was).
Overall, it was uneven but there was definitely more to like than dislike about this book and I would read this author again.
Quote from the Book
"This he had learned from Isabelle, to know when you deserve someone's anger, even if you cannot choose to be any different."