“Devastating Tragedy Told with Skill, Sensitivity”

Overall ♥♥♥♥♥   Performance ♥♥♥♥♥   Story ♥♥♥♥♥
Reviewed: 6/22/16

My greatest fear is when an apparently “normal” situation or person suddenly alters into something monstrous and life-threatening. This happens in real life when a sociopath decompensates or a psychopath reveals his true nature with abominable, vicious actions. While sociopaths are usually individuals “broken” by atrocious childhood abuse, the current theory is that psychopaths are born without the innate ability to feel empathy. In any case, once you’ve been the victim of either type of antisocial personality disorder, you are scarred for life.

“The Widow” is a fascinating and terribly sad depiction of people and a marriage falling apart. What is love when your husband objectifies you and your “departments?” What is loyalty when there is no true honesty or intimacy possible because there is actually no real “relationship?” Fiona Barton reveals the secret horror of such a marriage with great finesse and control. Chapter by chapter and character by character (each eloquently represented by wonderful narrators), the apparently ordinary life of Jean Taylor begins to disintegrate due to her charming husband’s forays into what she terms his “nonsense.” She marries young, is relatively poorly educated and basically computer-illiterate, so it takes a long time for her vague suspicions to take shape–and when they do, Jean is trapped in a dissociative bubble layered with fear, marital obligation, medication, and the piercing grief women feel when they learn they will never have the children they have longed to mother.

Cleverly worked into the plot are the manipulative games police and reporters are forced to play to get “results.” The themes of trust, love, and longing recur over and over in different contexts, like a multi-faceted jewel slowly revealing its innate quality with care, cutting and polishing.

I can’t say more without spoiling the plot, but let me add that this book hooked me for an entire night of insomnia, made me cry, and will definitely take its place in my permanent library. A difficult story about one of society’s most shocking crimes is brought to life with grace and literary skill.

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