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Authors: Laura Brodie

The Widow's Season

BOOK: The Widow's Season
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Table of Contents
 
 
 
 
 
PRAISE FOR THE WIDOW’S SEASON

The Widow’s Season
is far more than what it seems to be at first—a straightforward story of a woman getting used to a crushing loss. It’s smarter, slyer, and more unconventional than that. It’s haunting—and haunted, too.”
—Elizabeth Benedict, author of
Almost
and
The Practice of Deceit
 
 
“Confronts all the twists and turns of grief and loss, love and marriage, and the human heart with honesty, humor, and great intelligence.” —Ann Hood, author of
The Knitting Circle
 
 
 
PRAISE FOR LAURA BRODIE’S
 
BREAKING OUT
 
“Brodie is an excellent guide. Once you open it, her book is hard to put down.”—Jane Tompkins, author of
A Life in School
 
“Brodie tells her story with a light touch and an eye for telling detail.” —Jill Ker Conway, author of
The Road from Coorain
 
“Brodie is a fine writer, sensitive to nuances.”
—Lois Banner, author of
American Beauty
 
“A fascinating and highly readable story filled with striking insights into American gender roles and revolutions at the end of the twentieth century. Brodie’s book does a wonderful job of demonstrating the pressures for both continuity and change.”
—Drew Gilpin Faust, author of
Mothers of Invention
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada
(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
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(a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196,
South Africa
 
Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
 
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
 
An excerpt from this novel was previously published, in slightly different form, in
Shenandoah.
 
Copyright © 2009 by Laura Brodie Readers Guide copyright © 2009 by Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
 
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
BERKLEY
®
is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
The “B” design is a trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
 
PRINTING HISTORY
Berkley trade paperback edition / June 2009
 
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
 
Brodie, Laura Fairchild.
The widow’s season / Laura Brodie.—Berkley trade paperback ed.
p. cm.
eISBN : 978-1-101-05734-6
1. Widows—Fiction. 2. Grief—Fiction. 3. Psychological fiction. I. Title.
PS3602.R63486W53 2009
813’.6—dc22
2009002118
 
 

http://us.penguingroup.com

For Julia, Rachel, Kathryn
and especially John,
may he live to a ripe old age.
Let her take him for her keeper and spy, not only of her deeds, but also of her conscience . . . And let her not behave herself, so that his soul has cause to be angry with her, and take vengeance on her ungraciousness.
—On the proper behavior of a widow
toward her husband.
Juan Luis Vives,
De Institutione Feminae Christianae
,
dedicated to Catherine of Aragon in 1523.
PART ONE
Spirit
• 1 •
Sarah McConnell’s husband had been dead three months when she saw him in the grocery store. He was standing at the end of the seasonal aisle, contemplating a display of plastic pumpkins, when, for one brief moment, he lifted his head and looked into her eyes. There, in his unaltered face, she glimpsed such an odd mixture of longing and indecision that her first instinct was to rush toward him, to fold her body within that unforgettable green flannel shirt. But she was swept by a wave of tingling nerves and pounding blood so cold, her only response was mute paralysis. In the seconds it took to resume her breathing, he had turned the corner at the aisle’s end and was gone.
She heard the broken cry before she recognized it as her own voice, yelling, “David! Wait!” And then she was running after him, her cart abandoned, her pocketbook banging against her thigh.
When she reached the end of the aisle and turned left, she saw nothing but a wall of milk and eggs, mingled with the faces of wary strangers. Immediately she began checking aisle after aisle, finding nothing and nothing and again, nothing. She sprinted to the front of the store and searched in the opposite direction, scanning aisles to her left, checkout lines to her right. Never had the rows of paper towels, canned fruit, and cereal boxes seemed so garish, their cartoon logos blurring with her fractured thoughts.
Rushing out to the parking lot, she yelled David’s name again. But among the handful of people unlocking their cars and loading their trunks, there were no dark-haired, middle-aged men in blue jeans and green flannel.
By the time she had reentered the store, the manager was coming down from his elevated cubicle. His bland smile seemed to assure that he had seen all this before. A mother obviously panicked over a missing child. With a small team of searchers he would eventually find the errant preschooler gazing at the lobster tank, or hiding behind a helium canister.
“You’ve lost someone?”
The words lingered in Sarah’s mind. “Yes.” She had lost someone.
“What does he look like?”
Her dark eyes kept scanning the store. She had a vague notion that if she stayed near the door she might block David’s exit.
“He was wearing his Yankees baseball cap.”
“What’s his name?”
“David.”
“How old is he?”
“Forty-three.”
The manager’s smile sagged. “Forty-three?”
Sarah stopped to examine the man. She noted his solid black tie, his red-white-and-blue name tag, and his fragile patience.
“He’s my husband.”
It was almost comical, how quickly the kindness fled from the man’s face. In his eyes she was no longer an endearing young mother, in need of a steady arm. She was just another noisy wacko, a middle-aged woman with a wild expression, whose brown hair was falling from its silver clips.
“Do you want me to page him?” The words were more dismis sive than curious. Already the manager’s thoughts were returning to his computer screen.
Sarah imagined herself waiting at the customer service counter while a stranger paged her dead husband, and gradually the hysteria began to seep away. Why had she come here? What did she want from this place?
“Never mind.” Her only thought was to escape to the quiet safety of her home.
Stepping again into the parking lot, she noticed how pale the sky had become. The maple leaves, so bright with fire two weeks before, were crumpled and falling like ash. As she crossed the pavement, the October wind bit through the links of her sweater.
Inside her old Volvo wagon, she shut the door, strapped on her seat belt, and placed the key into the ignition. Then she sat back, closed her eyes, and quietly, very quietly, she wept.
• 2 •
“I saw David today.”
Sarah was sitting in her neighbor’s kitchen, running her fingertip along the rim of an empty coffee mug. Margaret Blake, a tall Englishwoman with short gray hair, leaned over the stove as she dipped a silver straining ball into a blue teapot. Sarah wondered if her words would provoke a flinch in Margaret’s shoulders, or a sudden turn of the head. But she couldn’t detect the slightest hesitation in her friend’s hands as they reached for the quilted tea cozy.
In the three years since Margaret’s younger daughter had left for college, Friday-afternoon tea had become a ritual for the two women. It was a time to talk about gardens and politics, to berate hapless presidents and ineffectual prime ministers.
It was also a time to mourn, because Margaret, too, was a widow. Five years had passed since she had found her husband in the backyard, lying among a pile of pruned crab-apple branches. Five springs that same tree had blossomed and faded in a floral anniversary, each time prompting Sarah to wonder what had impelled Ethan Blake, a man with a notoriously temperamental heart, to suddenly take up pruning. Had he sensed that something was to be sheared that day? That an old branch needed to be cut away?
BOOK: The Widow's Season
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