Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Liesel Litzenburger's The Widower


The Widower by Liesel Litzenburger
A baby left in an orchard, a gun won in a pool game, a car wreck on an icy day, and snapshots taken in a hotel room are isolated incidents that fatefully converge in this beautifully written literary novel. In one sense, the stories of the people who live in this small town in Michigan’s upper peninsula are in the words of one of the characters “unbelievably sad.” Ray who says he’s in the “life saving business” can save everyone but himself. The widower of the title, Swan Robey, just wants to be left alone after a tragic incident on an icy road. A young Canadian woman becomes involved with an abusive boyfriend. A convict returns to his hometown after spending the last twenty years in jail.

Like the Wislawa Szymborska poem, “There But for the Grace,” chance encounters cause these characters to meet and find reprieve from their sorrows.

 What I liked best about the novel is the beautiful language Litzenburger uses throughout. Here’s one of many beautiful descriptions of the lake: “Soon the big lake is visible, silver, flickering through the trees. Then the whole of it bottomless, forever. It is his map, his secret. It holds his life. He can follow the shore road, the water, all the way home.”