Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Widower's Tale by Julia Glass

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.

My review: 4 looks
I am giving this one 4 looks and not a full 5 because I had such high hopes for this book when I started it, only to feel a little flat from the middle to the end. I loved the witty sarcasm of Percy, the full robustly different personalities of Trudy and Clover, and the clever writing of author Glass. However, once the characters started to take off, full of personality and flaws, I just didn't buy some of the scenarios.

For example, Percy so taken with Sarah after all this time after Poppy's death of not even a date with any one else? Then when Sarah was a bit in the background, a slight attraction to Daphne? I just didn't buy that part of the story. I also didn't quite buy the story of Robert. Were those homoerotic undertones for Turo? They were just on the surface, but never really acknowledged, much less explored. And the shock of the ecoterrorism's last exploits were a little hard to swallow. For them to go from passive-aggressive displays to a suddenly violent and destructive protest ... again, I may be naive, but I didn't see the sudden change in their modus operandi as plausible.

On the other hand, I loved the ongoing pain and coming to terms with the death of Poppy. I loved the complex and deep relationship of Ira and Anthony. I loved the conflicts, hopes, dreams and yearnings for family of Celestino.  I liked the struggle of Robert with his dreams versus everyone's expectations. I liked the background of how Ira came to Matlock.

The very rich and real characters made me enjoy this book, but the hard-to-take scenarios keep me from giving it a "favorite" rating.

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