In this finely observed and oddly moving comic novel, Israeli writer Yehoshua (A Late Divorce, The Lover, and the polemic, Between Right and Right) employs a close-up psychological realism in following a widower through the year after his wife's death. Passive, middle-aged Israeli bureaucrat Molkho has doggedly nursed his wife at home for seven years as cancer slowly killed her. With her death, Molkho believes his life changed, anticipating new freedom along with grief. Before the proper year of mourning is out, he's involved in a brief, abortive courtship of a superior from his office at the Ministry of the Interior; a trip to investigate the finances of an outliving village sparks a chaste infatuation with a young girl; and he's approached by the husband of a childhood love and asked to marry her--as the husband wants to remarry but won't divorce his wife until she's assured a new husband. Despite these attempts to find a new wife, however, Molkho remains passive and dominated by his late wife, and thus doomed to fail. At the end of the year, though, his mother-in-law--whose approval he seeks, as an extension of his wife's--enlists his help in returning an unhappy immigrant to her native Russia. While he's in Berlin, his mother-in-law falls sick, and with her ensuring death he recognizes his own passivity, and the possibility of real freedom arrives. Childish, petty, selfish, and deeply self-involved, almost proud of his intellectual inferiority, Molkho is not a likable man. But in this very real and sometimes funny novel, Yehoshua makes us feel his humanity--and deftly wins him our sympathy.