In a historic farmhouse outside Boston, seventy-year-old Percy Darling is settling happily into retirement: reading novels, watching old movies, and swimming naked in his pond. His routines are disrupted, however, when he is persuaded to let a locally beloved preschool take over his barn. As Percy sees his rural refuge overrun by children, parents, and teachers, he must reexamine the solitary life he has made in the three decades since the sudden death of his wife. No longer can he remain aloof from his community, his two grown daughters, or, to his shock, the precarious joy of falling in love.
One relationship Percy treasures is the bond with his oldest grandchild, Robert, a premed student at Harvard. Robert has long assumed he will follow in the footsteps of his mother, a prominent physician, but he begins to question his ambitions when confronted by a charismatic roommate who preaches—and begins to practice—an extreme form of ecological activism, targeting Boston’s most affluent suburbs.
Meanwhile, two other men become fatefully involved with Percy and Robert: Ira, a gay teacher at the preschool, and Celestino, a Guatemalan gardener who works for Percy’s neighbor, each one striving to overcome a sense of personal exile. Choices made by all four men, as well as by the women around them, collide forcefully on one lovely spring evening, upending everyone’s lives, but none more radically than Percy’s.
With equal parts affection and satire, Julia Glass spins a captivating tale about the loyalties, rivalries, and secrets of a very particular family. Yet again, she plumbs the human heart brilliantly, dramatically, and movingly.
©2010 Random House Audio; 2010 Julia Glass
“Elaborately plotted and luxuriously paced, Glass’s inquisitive, compassionate, funny, and suspenseful saga addresses significant and thorny social issues with emotional veracity, artistic nuance, and a profound perception of the grand interconnectivity of life.” (Booklist)
I did love Julia Glass' "Three Junes" so I thought this would be a good choice. The story is entertaining enough, but there are too many threads. You don't get confused, but they don't connect. Each is very interesting, but as I said, they didn't connect enough. The immigrant part, especially.
Narrator Bramhall does a wonderful job of narrating, but I agree with another reviewer that the Brahmin accent of the central character did not fit well. He distinguishes the characters very well.
So this wasn't a bad choice, just not stellar.
While this was an interesting story and held my attention over the time it took to listen to it, I found Percy (the widower) to be pretty selfish. Considering all the angst that others in his life were going through, I found it annoying that he generally put himself above everyone else in his life. It might have been a more interesting story to have taken place about 10 years earlier in his life.
Julia Glass is a really fine writer and Mark Bramhall is a superb narrator. He nailed the voice of Percy Darling, the widower in the tale, as well as a range of other voices, the next best of which was a Guatemalan character, Celestino.
Glass weaves a tight tale, that encompasses multiple generations and perspectives, ranging from pre-school, immigration, and gentrification issues, to name a few. In other words, Glass is in touch with contemporary issues and manages to address them in a totally delightful story.
I was discussing books with a friend the other day, and we each admitted that we have trouble these days reading stories about painful issues, the Holocaust, war, racism, abuse, and terror. Sometimes we simply want to read a good story, well-written and meaningful but not horrific. That's a fine description of The Widower's Tale which I was sorry to finish. I wanted to stay with these characters; they were people I liked.
Julia Glass is a master of rendering family dynamics. Her 'Three Junes' is another fine example of this. Although it's skillfully written, I didn't enjoy 'The Widower's Tale' as much as I hoped, due to certain plot elements that seemed implausible to me, especially the behavior of a college-aged character who thoughtlessly involves himself in illegal activities. I don't want to go the spoiler route, so I'll leave it at that.
I was looking for entertainment. I got it and a whole lot more. Too Bad that I had to hear every potlical view from the author, from evolution to carbon emissions. It was a nice story, but the author could have left out all her views. I found myself grunting every time she spewed her intellectual liberal theories. By the way, I wonder if Julia Glass has made any money off her books? The capitalist pig! UGH
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