A Widow for One Year (Paperback)

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Ruth Cole is a complex, often self-contradictory character--a "difficult" woman. By no means is she conventionally "nice," but she will never be forgotten.

Ruth's story is told in three parts, each focusing on a crucial time in her life. When we first meet her--on Long Island, in the summer of 1958--Ruth is only four.

The second window into Ruth's life opens in the fall of 1990, when Ruth is an unmarried woman whose personal life is not nearly as successful as her literary career. She distrusts her judgment in men, for good reason.

A Widow for One Year closes in the autumn of 1995, when Ruth Cole is a forty-one-year-old widow and mother. She's about to fall in love for the first time.

Richly comic, as well as deeply disturbing A Widow for One Year is a multilayered love story of astonishing emotional force. Both ribald and erotic, it is also a brilliant novel about the passage of time and the relentlessness of grief.

Praise For…

“BY TURNS ANTIC AND MOVING, LUSTY AND TRAGIC, A Widow for One Year is bursting with memorable moments.”
San Francisco Examiner-Chronicle

“WISELY AND CAREFULLY CRAFTED . . . Irving is among the few novelists who can write a novel about grief and fill it with ribald humor soaked in irony.”
USA Today

The New York Times

“DEEPLY AFFECTING . . . The pleasures of this rich and beautiful book are manifold. To be human is to savor them.”
Los Angeles Times Book Review

Richmond Times-Dispatch

Irving’s best books are Dickensian in their rich characters, plotting, and language—and, of course, in moving the reader. On the final page of A Widow for One Year . . . I literally burst out crying.”
—Orlando Sentinel

A Widow for One Year is a sprawling nineteenth-century production, chock full of bizarre coincidences, multiple plot lines, lengthy digressions and stories within stories. . . . Its heroine, Ruth Cole . . . emerges as a complex, conflicted woman. . . . She is Irving’s most emotionally detailed character yet. . . . An engaging and often affecting fable, a fairy tale that manages to be old-fashioned and modern all at once.”
The New York Times

“[Irving’s] characters can beguile us onto thin ice and persuade us to dance there. His instinctive mark is the moral choice stripped bare, and his aim is impressive. What’s more, there’s hardly a writer alive who can match his control of the omniscient point of view. . . . As it tracks protagonists Ruth Cole and Eddie O’Hare through thirty-seven years of separate lives, A Widow for One Year lures us onto the terrain of irreparable grief and a little bit beyond. . . . No wonder the novel sent me looking for an imaginary children’s book in my house. The likes of Ruth and Eddie, so comprehensively flawed and sweetly deserving, incline a reader to invite them in, to stay.”
The Washington Post Book World

“John Irving is arguably the American Balzac, or perhaps our Dickens—a rip-roaring storyteller whose intricate plot machinery is propelled by good old-fashioned greed, foolishness, and passion.”
The Nation

“Moving and memorable . . . This novel marks a return to the deep but gentle examination of human nature that made Garp so successful.”
San Diego Union-Tribune


A Widow for One Year is as compelling as Garp. It might be even better. Which is to say it’s terrific. . . . Filled with compassion and complexity . . . A tribute to Irving’s powers as a writer . . . His most moving book. A Widow for One Year demonstrates, without a doubt, that John Irving is one of America’s great storytellers.”
San Jose Mercury News

“Wonderfully satisfying . . . [Irving] tells this story with so much delight that it’s difficult for the reader not to be infected with the same kind of joy in the reading. . . . With all the raunchy sex, delightful digressions on the contemporary literature scene, glimpses into the lives of gardeners and shopkeepers, schoolteachers and police officers, and a wonderful section set in the red-light district of Amsterdam, with a murder thrown in, there is an underlying sense of wonder that makes the novel seem almost like something written for the child in us.”
The Dallas Morning News

“Enchantingly balances the haunting tug of grief with the lure of enduring love . . . Irving’s rich narrative and his sense of play result in a delicious collusion between author and reader.”
Raleigh News & Observer

“[A] fast read that maintains its swift, entertaining pace . . . Sorrow and sadness abound in this latest world according to Irving. But there is also much comic joy. Some of the maddest madcap scenes are the funniest, or at least the most surreal, since Peter De Vries, that great American Dutch Master, savaged suburbia.”
Hartford Courant

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“A feast . . . A Widow for One Year proves to be one of this storyteller’s richest works. . . . We still need John Irving, a nineteenth-century novelist working here at the edge of the twenty-first. We need him to tell us his old-fashioned stories, to keep all those plates spinning, to remind us that writing is performance and that, as readers, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be delighted or surprised. Irving has stuck to his guns, outlived and outwritten the minimalists, and every few years gives us a rich, resonant tale.”
Austin American-Statesman

“John Irving is a writer whose keenest sensibilities have always fallen somewhere between Dickensian verbosity and Mad magazine mischief; a writer whose work is informed by characters and events that run the gamut from the tender to the tragic. . . . He has created in Ruth Cole a wisely enigmatic character, at once feisty and frail . . . a sphinx full of riddles on the road to personal redemption. Redemption ultimately seems at the heart of all Irving’s novels, people striving to rise above the absurdities of their life, daring to see some greater purpose in the mortar of their daily grind. A Widow for One Year celebrates this fusion of comic forbearance and enduring hope beautifully.”
Rocky Mountain News

“Comic and tragic, brilliant and moving . . . Crammed with all the wonderful characters, quirky situations, and memorable coincidences that have made [Irving] so beloved by readers . . . A Widow for One Year is unquestionably a big novel, in its number of pages, in its scope, in its breadth of subjects and in its myriad diverse characters. It’s a terrific read that will make you its willing slave, so captivating is its allure.”
Chattanooga Free Press

“Ruth Cole is one of Irving’s most endearing curmudgeons: the perfect guide through the often rocky and uncertain landscape of the human heart.”
The Denver Post

Sunday Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA)

A Widow for One Year delivers everything John Irving fans have come to expect from the beloved author of The World According to Garp: a funny, sad, sprawling saga full of oddball yet believable characters.”

“An awfully fun—and funny—book . . . [A Widow for One Year] revolves around the world according to Ruth Cole, the daughter of a lecherous Long Island children’s book author and his beautiful, haunted wife. Irving’s strength has always been his characters. And Ruth . . . is Irving’s most fully realized creation to date.”
Sunday Oregonian

“There’s only one thing wrong with John Irving novels: They have to end. Readers won’t easily part with the characters in his latest work, A Widow for One Year. . . . [An] exhilarating talent.”
The Tennessean

“When characters are brilliant, funny, idiosyncratic, and memorable, you are square in the middle of really good storytelling.”
Tampa Tribune Times

“A compelling story of love, loss, and hope.”
Sunday Record (Hackensack, NJ)

“[A] SPRAWLING, COMPLEX FAMILY HISTORY, A Widow for One Year will appeal to readers who like old-fashioned storytelling mixed with modern sensitivities. Wisely and carefully crafted, it’s a novel about grief, the kind that lingers, and about families, the ones we’re born into and ones we make for ourselves. Irving is among the few novelists who can write a novel about grief and fill it with ribald humor soaked in irony.”
USA Today

“COMPELLING . . . John Irving is at the peak of his considerable powers in A Widow for One Year, his most intricate and fully imagined novel. . . . Irving’s narrative spans 37 years in the life of Ruth Cole and the people around her. . . . By turns antic and moving, lusty and tragic, A Widow for One Year is bursting with memorable moments. . . . A testament to one of life’s most difficult lessons: In the end, you just have to find a way to keep going.”
San Francisco Examiner-Chronicle

“In the sprawling, deeply felt A Widow for One Year, John Irving has delivered his best novel since The World According to Garp. . . . Like a warm bath, it’s a great pleasure to immerse yourself in.”
Entertainment Weekly

Product Details
ISBN: 9780345469014
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: June 1st, 2004
Pages: 576