Much like animals seem to be able to sense the weak link in the pack, my mother could tell I was having a vulnerable moment in my You Bought It, You Read It Challenge. I had accepted a book from a coworker to read – The Dog Year- and I was determined to move on to the next book on my shelf. Until mom told me about this book.
In this tender and funny novel, award-winning author Hilma Wolitzer mines the unpredictable fallout of suddenly becoming single later in life, and the chaos and joys of falling in love the second time around. When Edward Schuyler, a modest and bookish sixty-two-year-old science teacher, is widowed, he finds himself ambushed by female attention. There are plenty of unattached women around, but a healthy, handsome, available man is a rare and desirable creature. Edward receives phone calls from widows seeking love, or at least lunch, while well-meaning friends try to set him up at dinner parties. Even an attractive married neighbor offers herself to him.
The problem is that Edward doesn’t feel available. He’s still mourning his beloved wife, Bee, and prefers solitude and the familiar routine of work, gardening, and bird-watching. But then his stepchildren surprise him by placing a personal ad in The New York Review of Books on his behalf. Soon the letters flood in, and Edward is torn between his loyalty to Bee’s memory and his growing longing for connection. Gradually, reluctantly, he begins dating (“dating after death,” as one correspondent puts it), and his encounters are variously startling, comical, and sad. Just when Edward thinks he has the game figured out, a chance meeting proves that love always arrives when it’s least expected.
With wit, warmth, and a keen understanding of the heart, An Available Man explores aspects of loneliness and togetherness, and the difference in the options open to men and women of a certain age. Most of all, the novel celebrates the endurance of love, and its thrilling capacity to bloom anew.
I kept pretty good tabs on my Goodreads status updates so I have decided to provide those to you here.
01/03 marked as currently reading
01/03 page 24 “#amreading Of course I love this book. The main character is a birdwatcher.”
01/04 page 65 “#amreading What seemed to be a cute little book now has me pondering how the beau would handle my death.”
01/05 page 101 “#amreading – I love when a book surprises you with the F-bomb. Didn’t see that coming!”
01/09 page 137″#amreading The main character should stick to bird-watching! Dating is not for him!”
01/11 page 179 “#amreading Boy, I thought I had some crazy ex’s! Run, Edward! Run!”
01/12 page 195 “#amreading I see a train wreck coming down the tracks. How about you?”
01/14 page 225 “#AmReading I hate it when I yell at characters in books and they don’t listen. Seriously, the bitch is crazy.”
01/16 page 258 “#amreading Is it wrong to tell a character I told you so?”
01/16 marked as: read
I loved, loved, loved this book. Only once did things slow down a tad too much, but otherwise it was fantastic. Okay, I was sucked in by all of the bird-watching parts but there was more than that. It truly made me ponder how the beau would handle things when I croak. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had to go over that I am REALLY serious about my body going to the University of Tennessee’s Anthropology department. They’ve had my paperwork on file for ten years now. Put me on ice and point me south! And yes, I mean it that if there is a memorial service you better play Tori Amos’ song about being a ghost and running around naked because no one can see you (Happy Phantom… truly the best song out there for an amazing service). But, what would he do after that? Would he date again? Would he tinker with things and do a little bird-watching all alone? He’d probably acquire a dog breed that I have warned him about because of likely hip dysplasia, cardiac disease or dermatology disasters. If so, please tell him I told you so for me.
The book came together nice at the end, but I have to admit I wasn’t so sure where things were heading during those last hundred pages. There was the right amount of closure for a book of this sort.
And yes, there was bird-watching and you can’t go wrong with that!
Next on You Bought It, You Read It: The Better Bladder Book by Wendy L. Cohan.