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The Widower’s Notebook

The Widower's Notebook by Jonathan Santlofer
Paperback
Jul 10, 2018 | 272 Pages
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    Jul 10, 2018 | 272 Pages

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    Jul 10, 2018 | 272 Pages

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Praise

“Wrenching, heartbreaking, intense and emotional – but valuable, too: we’re all approaching the age where this will happen to us – or to others because of us – and understanding that it can be dealt with is consoling.  I don’t know how Santlofer found the fortitude to write this, but I’m deeply grateful he did. I think the world is a better place with this book in it.”—Lee Child, #1 New York Times bestselling author

The Widower’s Notebook, Jonathan Santlofer’s searingly truthful chronicle of mortality, is, among its wonders, a book about the preciousness of life and love, rendered all the more heart-wrenching, and all the more vital, by a loss almost beyond imagining. It’s a true tragic beauty.”
Michael Cunningham, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Hours

The Widower’s Notebook is a searing rendition of the complex relationship between men and grief—an intense despair that is too often starved for words.  This chronicle of devastation is itself devastating, a deeply powerful and unflinchingly honest report of how painfully and strangely life continues in the wake of a sudden, tragic death.”—Andrew Solomon, National Book Award winner

“The Widower’s Notebook is an intimate, honest, heart-wrenching, and at times even funny account of grieving as well as the memoir of long, satisfying, loving marriage. This is an important and welcome addition to the literature of loss and grief from the male point of view. I will be giving this Notebook to friends reeling from loss but also to old and new couples who need models of how to weather the many little deaths and losses that occur as they journey a life together. Santlofer has given us a brave, beautiful gift, heartfelt and invaluable.”
Julia Alvarez, bestselling author of How the García Girls Lost Their Accents and Saving the World

Widower is stunning, harrowing, un-put-down-able… Jonathan Santlofer finds language that is immediate and intimate for the irreconcilable trauma of loss. Without pause he captures the shattered time that is grief—this book is fearless, brave for its humanity, honesty, love. Santlofer brings the reader into his heart, sharing all the things that one feels but dares not say aloud, all that one wants to know but can’t ask of themselves, of those around them, of their lost loved one.”—A.M. Homes, author of May We Be Forgiven

“As an extended meditation – not on grief but on grieving – it is direct, unadorned and humane. It is, as well, a rare thing, a portrait of a happy marriage.”—Paul Theroux, New York Times bestselling author
 
“Jonathan Santlofer’s book is a miraculous act of seeing, in words and in drawings — of reconstituting, in a work of art, what his wife Joy was like and what their marriage was like and what the loss has been. A riveting memoir of grief, and an indelible portrait of a long and deeply good marriage.” —Joan Wickersham, National Book Award finalist and author of The Suicide Index
 
“A brave book! A truthful and poignant account of an unexpected death filled with wisdom about life and a man’s struggle to be allowed to grieve.”—Sheila Kohler, author of Once We Were Sisters

“Jonathan Santlofer, with painful honesty, renders real grief in all its sprawl and inconsolable intensity.”—Edmund White, author of A Boy’s Own Story

“Jonathan Santlofer’s stunning The Widower’s Notebook raises all the blinds on immense and sudden loss, bringing light to all its dark corners. In so doing, he offers a deeply moving, often funny, always big-hearted portrait—not just of grief but of a long and rich marriage brought to vivid life, and of a mighty father-and-daughter relationship both tested and enduring. A true gift.”—Megan Abbott, bestselling author of You Will Know Me

Author Q&A

The Widower’s Notebook is incredibly honest, raw, and deeply personal. At what point did you decide to write this memoir about the loss of your wife?

I’d say the decision was made for me. For two years after my wife died, I kept notebooks—things I couldn’t say in public. Then I found myself transcribing the notes and the book wrote itself. I have to credit several women I know who encouraged me to write it.

You mentioned the notebook you kept following your wife’s death, and you write in the book, “I am not a fan of how-to manuals, and my notebook was never that.” What role did the notebook serve for you?

One of the first books somebody gave me was Elisabeth Kübler-Ross[’s On Death and Dying]. I think she did an important thing, but the book was no help to me. When you’re in an immediate state of grief and loss, to be told you’re supposed to be experiencing things in order makes you feel you’re doing something wrong.

I had never journaled in my life, but I needed to make sense of my experience in my own way. Very soon after my wife died, I found a simple composition notebook and began recording my daily life. I went out almost every night, because I didn’t like being at home alone, then I would come home and write down what happened. It was a way for me, when I felt as if I had little control, to put down my thoughts so I could feel less crazy. The notebooks were very comforting. It’s one of the things I would recommend to people. You don’t have to show it to anyone. I didn’t use two-thirds of it in the book—it was just for me.

Doria plays a huge part in the book and you note that “I have been writing much of this book for my daughter.” How is this also her story?

I would say this is my story, not hers, but it documents this time in our lives. I was careful not to presume to write about Doria’s feelings. I wrote about how we reacted and how we leaned on each other. My daughter as a baby and toddler grew up in a playpen in my studio, and we’re incredibly close, but there have to be boundaries. I did not want to try to write her experience for her. She doesn’t mind any parts of the book about her and me, but the parts that detail her mother’s death are very hard for her, and for me.

It struck me at some point how different our loss is—losing your wife is very different from losing your mother.

If you could go back and give yourself advice in those early days of grieving, what would you tell yourself?

A difficult question as hindsight is impossible. But I wish someone who had gone through this kind of experience had told me that in time it would get easier, that I would not forget but I would move forward.

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