This morning I found in my inbox a Maximum Shelf dedicated to Joyce Carol Oates’ new memoir A Widow’s Story. While my first instinct was to delete the e-newsletter without reading it, my curiosity urged me onward.
The publisher describes the book as “the universally acclaimed author’s poignant, intimate memoir about the unexpected death of Raymond Smith, her husband of forty-six years, and its wrenching, surprising aftermath.”
If you think like me, you probably read that and thought that sounds familiar, that sounds like Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking. If you think like me than neither of us are original thinkers because apparently this is a very common comparison. In fact, Oates herself recognizes the similarities. The Maximum Shelf article writes, “If your first reaction to A Widow’s Story is to imagine that we’ve covered this subject in The Year of Magical Thinking, Oates is well ahead of you. ‘Thank you for the Joan Didion memoir, which I’d already read–but will happily re-read,” she e-mails one of her many consolers. “I know that there is much melancholy wisdom here.'” An NPR article calls A Widow’s Story “more raw than Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, to which it will inevitably be compared.”
I tell you all of this because The Year of Magical Thinking is on my mom’s list and so I read it. It’s since popped up again in more of my reading. If you read along with me and enjoyed The Year of Magical Thinking (as much as you can enjoy a memoir of grief), perhaps you will want to read The Widow’s Story. For me, one heartbreaking memoir about a close family death is enough for the time being.