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Monday, July 23, 2012

An Available Man

An Available Man
Hilma Wolitzer
Ballantine, 2012

Edward Schuler has always been somewhat shy and retiring, more interested in tinkering in his science lab basement than in socializing with people. When his beloved wife dies after a long illness, he fully expects his life to continue as it always has: teaching science at the local school, keeping in touch with his stepchildren, and trying to recover from such a huge loss. He has no interest in pursuing any new friendships, let alone looking for women to date. Imagine his surprise when he receives phone calls and visits from several single women in town, interested in bringing him food, inviting him to social events, and otherwise striking up an intimate relationship.

The problem is that Edward doesn’t want to start dating again. He just doesn’t feel available. His past relationships included a previous engagement that was broken off abruptly, and then he met Bee, whom he did meet and marry soon after. He is surprised that he receives so much interest from the local ladies; he politely refuses all offers and thinks that the end of things. That’s when the letters start coming. It seems that his well-meaning stepdaughter combined forces with a similarly like-minded daughter-in-law to put an ad in the New York Times on his behalf, advertising his availability. At first he resists reading them because it seems disloyal to even think about dating again, but after some time he acknowledges that he has become lonely and the letters awaken something in himself that he thought had died along with his wife. Can a lonely widower find happiness a second time in life?

This poignant and thoughtful story of a sensitive man trapped inside his grief will appeal to readers of all ages. Edward’s situation is far from special: spouses die every day and those left behind must cope with their loneliness and despair. What makes Edward’s story more interesting is how he handles the many women who make their own needs and desires known quite clearly. Edward is always a gentleman, even if he’s hesitant, confused or unsure of his feelings. I quite liked Edward and honestly hoped he would find a woman he would have another chance to grow old with.


Other novels by this author:
The Doctor’s Daughter (2006)
Summer Reading (2007)

Other titles you may enjoy:

The Photograph by Penelope Lively (2004)
Finding a mysterious photograph of his late wife, Kath, holding hands with another man, Glyn begins a search that proves shocking to Kath's family and friends.

The Road Home by Rose Tremain (2008)
Making his way to London through Eastern Europe in the wake of factory closings and his wife's death, Lev finds a job in a posh restaurant and a room in the home of an Irishman who has also lost his family.

Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington (2011)
Follows the experiences of teenage Alice during her father's deployment to Iraq, an agonizing waiting period during which she gains new independence and falls in love while trying to be strong for her mother and younger sister.

1 comment:

  1. I finished reading this book on the weekend. It was a sweet book, a heartfelt story. I, too, hoped that Edward would/could find someone to grow old with. I like your review, Kelly!