Soaje (Borrowing My Mother’s Saints, 2012) offers a subtle, nuanced novel about how a web of personal connections—old and new—allows a grieving woman to restart her life.
Amelia Weiss, 58, is a gifted Jewish artist and the mother of two. As the story begins, the day after her husband’s funeral, she’s dealing with a grief so crushing that it’s left her crumpled and sobbing on her closet floor. The details of Amelia’s personality, large and small, unspool through the story as she gradually, painfully recovers; for example, she has a fondness for astrology and feels that she’s been unable to communicate with her daughter, Chloe. At first, she escapes into memories of the loving relationship she enjoyed with her husband. But they’re also torments, as each memory highlights how she’s been shattered by his death. The various personal connections in Amelia’s life—a pushy art agent; her two best friends, one old and one new; and her troubled daughter—bring Amelia back to normal, then shock her with the possibility of a new love in James Rosenberg, an admirer of her work. Amelia immediately recoils from the idea of romance, and she’s full of guilt and shame: “I was raised to think that widowhood is the time to enjoy grandkids, mourn your loss in every breath, and not think about love like a kid.” Soaje depicts the nuances of human behavior through subtle turns of language: Amelia hugging a paper bag close, or Chloe silently handing Amelia a stone to put near her father’s grave. Ultimately, it’s the authenticity of Amelia herself, and her longing for her lost husband, that draws readers in until they can’t help but wonder whether she’ll take a chance on love again.
An engaging novel that authentically portrays a widow’s pain and her chance at finding peace.