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A Widow's Journey

by Sally Friedman

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-374-27230-1
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

An unsentimental but ardent record of love and grief, related by a woman who lost her husband only days before she was to swim the English Channel. Friedman is a long-distance swimmer who has made the swim around Manhattan more than once and was the first to swim from the tip of Montauk, Long Island, to Watch Hill, R.I. When she met and married her husband, Paul, they planned her swim from England to France as a sort of last fling before they settled into married life and children. Paul helped her train, paddling nearby in a canoe as she put in miles swimming across cold Adirondack lakes, always supportive, always ready with comforting words. They scheduled the crossing for August, when the channel water was warmest. On the day she was to leave New York for England, Paul was struck by a truck on his way to work; he died the next day. That was in 1990. This memoir is the story of her six years of mourning, from the days in the beginning when she could not bear to be with people, through the months when she slowly took her life off hold, returning to her job, seeing friends, even having an affair, and swimming in the cold Adirondack lakes where she and Paul had trained for the channel swim. ``There are still, even now, days without end,'' she says, but they are a ``necessary lapse.'' This chronicle of bereavement is constructed as a diary, but it moves back and forth in time seamlessly, as if sorrow had no boundaries. Stroke by stroke, as it were, Friedman has brought her grief under control and explores her long passage back toward life in simple and powerful prose. Not much comfort here, but a distinctive portrait of survival.