A precisely observed, moving debut novel about the struggle of an elderly widow to master her grief and to preserve her independence, by the chief television critic of The New York Times. While this would not seem to be a particularly fresh theme, James works some intelligent and convincing variations on it. As the story opens, Gloria Carcieri (only her beloved husband Jack was ever allowed to call her —Glorie—) has been alone for seven years. Her loving, secure, 50-year marriage to Jack seems, in a sense, her real life, and the passage since a quiet, increasingly empty time. James deftly uses Gloria's reveries about her life with Jack to create a portrait of a convincingly stable and resilient relationship. Since his death, Gloria has struggled to maintain his presence in her life, refusing to believe that "time had ended for him. There was a version of her husband that could follow her anywhere." She talks to him, confides in him, and he offers the kind of wise, unadorned advice he always gave her. Increasingly, though, his counsel is no help. Gloria's money is dwindling, in part because she refuses to give up her house, the most tangible reminder of Jack. Anxious to preserve her privacy (and her memories), she won't move into the senior citizen housing her daughter has found for her. The distinctive virtue of the narrative is its ability to restore the particulars of real life to incidents so familiar that they seem to have become generic. Because Gloria and her family members are so vividly rendered (owing, among other things, to the accumulation of domestic detail), the pressing fears of old age (senility, crippling illness, poverty) have a disturbingly direct presence here. And Gloria's modest victories in maintaining her life in the face of both age's indignities and the plans of a loving but baffled family are deeply resonant. A disciplined, affecting work .
Read full book review >