I’m officially resurrecting my dormant Virginia is for…book lovers feature. I have a ton of great authors lined up to feature, but unfortunately sometimes life takes you over! I promise to make this a monthly feature and give these amazing authors their due! This month’s featured author is Laurie Brodie, author of The Widow’s Season.
Paperback: 303 pages
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA), June 2009
Sarah McConnell is still grieving the death of her husband, David, after losing him nearly three months ago in a flash flood. His body was never recovered and while Sarah knew there was no way he could have survived the flood, she still needs that physical evidence of his demise before she can truly accept he is gone.
But then one day, she sees him at the grocery store. She catches his eye but as quickly as he appeared, he is gone. Reluctantly, she tells her friend Margaret, also a widow. To her surprise, Margaret doesn’t seem appalled by this news. She, too, used to see her husband everwhere after he passed away, nearly five years ago. But her visions were of men who resembled her husband and obviously not her husband himself.
Margaret recommends that Sarah join her at her next bereavement group meeting. Talking with other women experiencing the same grief might aid in her healing. Also aiding her in this recovery process is Nate, her brother-in-law. He drops by and checks in on Sarah on a regular basis. His resemblance to David is uncanny, almost so similar he could almost be mistaken for his older brother.
Sarah soon discovers that she’s not truly grieving the loss of her husband:
She was morning the loss of an idea, a vision of how her life should have been. And that vision had not been swept down the river three months ago; it had been dying slowly over the past few years, with each small dream that she abandoned.
Sarah had given up bits of herself in the years she was married to David. She dropped everything and moved to Jackson when he was offered a position there. She soon found a part-time job at the local college.
Once they were settled, Sarah and David tried to start a family. Unfortunately, they were unable. Sarah was in a constant battle with her body, for some reason she was unable to carry a child to term. Sarah was devastated and sunk into a bout of depression. David was unable to deal with her emotions:
She felt that her miscarriages were tainting his perfect world, a barren wife being the most ancient blight of all, and she sometimes suspected that the acidity of her mind might be poisoning her womb; no life could grow within a body so bitter. Some nights David would stay at work just to avoid her tone at the dinner table.
So Sarah wasn’t really grieving David, but grieving the life and the family they could have had together.
Sarah joins Margaret for her bereavement group meeting. She reveals her glimpses of David to the group of widows. Many of the women admit that they too have seen their husbands. Margaret is still hesitant to believe Sarah is actually being haunted by her husband:
…if you are really seeing David, there must be a reason. Either he is somehow trying to reach you, or you are trying to reach him. Most likely it is the latter. There’s probably somthing unresolved in your mind.
On Halloween night, David makes another appearance. This time he doesn’t disappear. Thinking of Margaret’s statement, she opens the door and invites David inside.
David explains that he was a victim of the flood but he was able to save himself from the raging rapids. But instead of contacting Sarah and returning to his life, he has an unmistakeable desire to run away. So he continues to hid in their cabin in the woods. Even though he saw Sarah and Margaret arrive at the cabin a week after the flood, he remained hidden.
He invites Sarah to (once again) leave everything behind and come with him to live in the cabin. Sarah is unable to commit to an answer, but begins to visit David at their cabin.
Meanwhile, Nate continues to pay visits to Sarah. Sarah can’t help to feel alive in his presence. He shows a level of respect and care for her that David was unable to show. She is torn between the feeling she has when she is with Nate, and the feelings of loyalty she has for David.
Sarah’s decision is made after attending a performance with Nate at The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. The lyrics seemed to describe Sarah to a “T”:
I am eager for the pleasures of the flesh
More than for salvation,
My soul is dead,
So I shall look after the flesh…
…The girl without a lover
Misses out on all the pleasures
She keeps the dark night
In the depth of her heart;
It is a most bitter fate.
Sarah realizes that she has to make a decision: is she going to live for her dead/undead husband or for once, live for herself?
The Widow’s Season a lot more than what it seems. Reading just the description on the back of the book, it seems to be a ghost story. But it’s much more. It is not only a story of a widow’s healing, but also one that details her transformation into a seemingly completely different individual. The years she was with David, it was as if she were a caterpillar and she wasn’t able to fully transform into a butterfly until her feelings about her marriage and David were resolved.
While reading, I didn’t know what to believe. Was David truly alive or was Sarah just haunted by his ghost? I won’t reveal the answer, but Brodie did an outstanding job of keeping the answer ambiguous.
Brodie’s writing is very emotional and captivating, a very absorbing read. It’s also a very addictive piece. I couldn’t put it down until I learned the truth behind David’s appearances. In case you haven’t noticed yet, I highly recommend this one! It would be the perfect book for a reading group. There are several aspects and issues that can be picked apart and discussed.
About the Author:
I was born in Columbus, Ohio, with the name Laura Ann Fairchild. My earliest memories come from Seattle, Washington, where my family lived in the Magnolia neighborhood near the Puget Sound. I loved the deep, rainy colors of Seattle; one of my dreams is to buy a summer house on the Olympic peninsula.
At age eight, my family moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, where I stayed through high school, spending most of my time writing poetry, playing tennis, and earning money as an amateur violinist. After graduating from Broughton High School in 1982, I went to college at Harvard, and lived in Cabot House with a group of eight talented and diverse women who inspire me to this day. Hello to all my roommates!
My favorite class was a poetry workshop with Seamus Heaney, and I graduated with a degree in English in 1986. While at Harvard, I played violin with the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra, touring in Russia, Europe and Asia. On an orchestra tour I met my future husband, trumpeter John Brodie. We married after my graduation, and lived in Washington, DC, where I worked on campaign finance reform for Common Cause.
In 1988 we moved to Lexington, VA, so that John could take a job as band director at the Virginia Military Institute. I commuted to Charlottesville to work on a PhD at the University of Virginia, and with the help of a dissertation fellowship from the American Association of University Women and a Woodrow Wilson Women’s Studies Grant, I wrote a dissertation focused on widows in English literature. Since that time, all of my writing has been tied to women’s studies. My favorite chapter from that dissertation was on husbands who fake their deaths in order to spy on their wives, and that inspired my novel, The Widow’s Season.
If you are a Virginia author and would like to be showcased in this feature, please contact me at jennsbookshelfATgmailDOTcom or fill out the form on my “Contact Me” page.