A spare, trembling and troubling memoir of loss from recently widowed novelist and social commentator Roiphe (An Imperfect Lens, 2006, etc.).
Flirting with (but never seriously courting) cliché, the author offers as a principal metaphor the phases of the moon, but readers must resist the urge to roll their eyes at this all-too-familiar friend and instead marvel at the intricate tale she crafts. Its structure is so fine as to be all but invisible, and each word seems like the individual beat of a human heart. Using the present—that most gossamer of tenses—throughout, she tells a series of stories about herself and her deceased husband, identified only as H. Eventually, we learn a number of things about him: He read and reread the 47 novels of Anthony Trollope; he loved Mozart and the Dutch masters. He touched his wife often, always used his key at the front door. We learn, too, about her family: her first marriage, her daughters, an estrangement from a nephew that death and time are healing. Nearing 70, the author wonders if she needs another man in her life. She tries online-dating services and relates meetings with men whose failures to be her lost husband she describes most affectingly. One persistent e-mail correspondent continually sends her pages of right-wing paranoia, yet she remains attracted to him for a long time—longer, she knows, than sense should have allowed. She recalls old friendships, examines closely the dying of the light, decides to catalog the imperfections of her husband but can criticize only his erratic driving and, worst of all, his dying. She gives away his clothes but can’t decide what to do with his neckties. Her occasional flashbacks to the emergency room and the funeral are bright bursts of painful light.
As fragile and as haunting as memory itself.