A Widow for One Year
|A Widow for One Year|
|Publication date||May 5, 1998|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover and Paperback)|
|ISBN||ISBN 0-375-50137-1 (1st ed hardcover)|
|Dewey Decimal||813/.54 21|
|LC Classification||PS3559.R8 W53 1998|
|Preceded by||A Son of the Circus|
|Followed by||The Fourth Hand|
A Widow for One Year is a 1998 bestselling work of fiction by John Irving, the ninth of his novels to be published.
The first section of the novel was made into the movie The Door in the Floor in 2004.
In the opening section of the book, the year is 1958 and Ruth Cole is 4 years old. Although she is a loved child, her parents do not have a happy marriage. Her two older brothers died four years earlier in a car accident, and she is constantly reminded of their presence from the pictures of their childhood hanging on the walls of the Cole family home. Ruth's father, Ted Cole, writes successful children's books, and hires Eddie O'Hare, a teenager who attends Phillips Exeter Academy, the same school as Ruth's two late brothers, to work as his assistant for the summer. Eddie is unwittingly drawn into a plot orchestrated by Ted to drive his unhappy wife, Marion, to infidelity. Marion, unable to forget her dead sons, shows little affection to her daughter. Ted has always conducted extramarital affairs and would likely lose in a custody battle for Ruth in divorce court. If Marion had an affair, he feels that this would strengthen the case for custody to be awarded to him. Ted picks Eddie specifically to tempt Marion, since he bears a striking resemblance to his two dead sons. Eddie and Marion's affair leads to Marion's disappearance at the end of the summer.
It is 1990 and Ruth is 36. She is in Europe, dealing with the failures of her love life as she herself has become a successful writer. Ruth is doing research on prostitutes in Amsterdam's red light district, and finds herself hiding in a closet while she observes the murder of a prostitute by the prostitute's client. She makes note of certain details of the murder which, in the future, lead to the murderer's arrest. The detective who solves the murder case is left with the identity of the mysterious "witness" unknown.
Ruth is now 41, has a son, and is about to fall in love for the first time. This section covers Ruth's brief widowhood ("A Widow for One Year" is a literal description of Ruth's situation as well as the title of one of her early novels). The detective who solved the murder case that Ruth witnessed four years before realizes that Ruth is the witness, because Ruth included details of the victim's room in her novel, and the detective is a fan of Ruth's work. Ruth discovers that the murder was solved and the murderer caught. Ruth meets with the detective, and they fall in love. After a whirlwind romance in Paris (the next stop on Ruth's book tour) he agrees to follow Ruth to Vermont, where they marry. Eddie O'Hare and Ruth, unexpectedly, reunite with Marion. Eddie and Marion end up living happily on Long Island.
- In a theme common to many Irving novels, Eddie is the son of a teacher at Phillips Exeter Academy. He grows up on the campus, and subsequently attends secondary school there.
- Ruth is a fan of Graham Greene (she even names her son "Graham" after him), and in the novel reads The Life of Graham Greene by Norman Sherry.
- When Ruth marries for the first time, Eddie reads the passage about marriage from George Eliot's novel Adam Bede.
- At Allan's memorial service, Eddie reads the poem "When you are old" by William Butler Yeats.
- When Harry marries Ruth, he reads Yeats' poem "He wishes for the Cloths of Heaven".
- One of the children's books that Ted Cole writes, A Sound Like Someone Trying Not to Make a Sound, has become a real children's novel with illustrations by Tatjana Hauptmann.
- John Irving and the architecture of character: Interview about Widow for One Year