How to Talk to a Widower

How to Talk to a Widower

by Jonathan Tropper

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Overview

“A resigned yet hopeful examination of grief with a side of human absurdity . . . warm and modestly knowing, with a wisecracking slacker hero.”—Kirkus Reviews

Doug Parker is a widower at age twenty-nine, and in his quiet town, that makes him the object of sympathy, curiosity, and in some cases even unbridled desire. But Doug has more urgent things on his mind, such as his sixteen-year-old stepson, Russ, a once-sweet kid who is now getting into increasingly serious trouble. As Doug starts dipping his toes into the shark-infested waters of the second-time-around dating scene, it isn’t long before his new life is spinning hopelessly out of control, cutting a harrowing and often humorous swath of sexual missteps and escalating chaos across a suburban landscape. How to Talk to a Widower is a stunning novel of love, lust, and loss that USA Today hails as “hilarious but emotion-packed.”

Praise for How to Talk to a Widower

“[A] winning tale about a man raising his stepson after his wife dies.”—People

“Part of Widower’s charm is that there’s no happily ever after, no Cinderella-catches-the-fella ending.” —USA Today 

“A mixture of mourning and mockery . . . surprisingly moving.”—Entertainment Weekly

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385338912
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/24/2008
Series: Bantam Discovery
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 226,000
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.14(h) x 0.75(d)

About the Author

Jonathan Tropper is the author of Everything Changes, The Book of Joe, which was a BookSense selection, and Plan B. He lives with his wife, Elizabeth, and their children in Westchester, New York, where he teaches writing at Manhattanville College. How to Talk to a Widower was optioned by Paramount Pictures, and Everything Changes and The Book of Joe are also in development as feature films.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


Russ is stoned. You can see it in the whites of his eyes, which are actually more of a glazed pink under the flickering yellow porch light, in the dark discs of his dilated pupils, in the way his eyelids hang sluggishly at half-mast, and in the careless manner in which he leans nonchalantly against the pissed-off cop that is propping him up at my front door, like they’re drinking buddies staggering out into the night after last call. It’s just past midnight, and when the doorbell rang I was sprawled out in my usual position on the couch, half asleep but entirely drunk, torturing myself by tearing memories out of my mind at random like matches from a book, striking them one at a time and drowsily setting myself on fire.

“What happened?” I say.

“He got into a fight with some other kids down at the 7-Eleven,” the cop says, holding on to the top of Russ’s arm. And now I can see the lacerations and bruises on Russ’s face, the angry sickle-shaped scratch across his neck. His black T-shirt has been stretched beyond repair and torn at the neck, and his ear is bleeding where one of his earrings was snagged.

“You okay?” I say to Russ.

“Fuck you, Doug.”

It’s been a while since I last saw him, and he’s cultivated some facial hair, a rough little soul patch just beneath his bottom lip.

“You’re not his father?” the cop says.

“No. I’m not.” I rub my eyes with my fists, trying to gather my wits about me. The bourbon had been singing me its final lullaby, and in the freshly shattered stillness, everything still feels like it’s underwater.

“He said you were his father.”

“He kind of disowned me,” Russ says bitterly.

“I’m his stepfather,” I say. “I used to be, anyway.”

“You used to be.” The cop says this with the expression of someone who’s tasted some bad Thai food, and gives me a hard look. He’s a big guy—you’d have to be to hold up Russ, who at sixteen is already over six feet tall, broad and stocky. “You look young enough to be his brother.”

“I was married to his mother,” I say.

“And where is she?”

“She’s gone.”

“He means she’s dead,” Russ says contemptuously. He raises his hand and lowers it in a descending arc, whistling as it goes down, and then hissing through his teeth to generate the sound effect of an explosion. “Buh-bye.”

“Shut up, Russ.”

“Make me, Doug.”

The cop tightens his thick fingers around Russ’s arm. “Keep quiet, son.”

“I’m not your son,” Russ snarls, trying in vain to tear himself away from the cop’s iron grip. “I’m not anybody’s son.”

The cop presses him easily up against the doorpost to quash his flailing arms and then turns back to me. “And the father?”

“I don’t know.” I turn back to Russ. “Where’s Jim?”

Russ shrugs. “Down in Florida for a few days.”

“What about Angie?”

“She’s with him.”

“They left you alone?”

“It was just for two nights. They’ll be back tomorrow.”

“Angie,” the cop says.

“His father’s wife.”

The cop looks annoyed, like we’re giving him a headache. I want to explain everything to him, show him that it’s really not as screwed up as it all sounds, but then I remember that it is.

“So the kid doesn’t live here?”

“He used to,” I say. “I mean, this was his mother’s house.”

“Look,” the cop says wearily. He’s a middle-aged guy, with a graying caterpillar of a mustache and tired eyes. “Whatever he’s been smoking, I didn’t find any of it on him. My shift is just about over, and I have no desire to spend another hour processing the kid over a stupid parking-lot scuffle. I’ve got three boys of my own. He’s being a hard-ass now, but he cried in the squad car and asked me to bring him here. So this is how it works. I can take him to the station and write him up for a handful of misdemeanors, or you can let him in and promise me that it will never happen again.”

Russ just stares sullenly at me, like this is all my fault.

“It will never happen again,” I say.

“Okay, then.” The cop releases Russ, who whips his arm away violently and then bolts into the house and up the stairs to his room, shooting me a look of unrefined hatred that pierces the blubber of my drunken stupor like a harpoon.

“Thank you, Officer,” I say to the cop. “He’s really a good kid. He’s just had a tough year.”

“Just so you know,” the cop says, scratching his chin thoughtfully. “This isn’t the first time he’s been in trouble.”

“What kind of trouble?”

The cop shrugs. “The usual stuff. Fighting mostly. Some vandalism. And he’s obviously no stranger to the weed. I don’t know your deal here, but someone needs to start enforcing a curfew, and maybe get him some counseling. The kid is headed for trouble.”

“I’ll talk to his father,” I say.

“Next time, he gets booked.”

“I understand. Thanks again.”

The cop gives me a last skeptical look, and I can see myself through his eyes, bedraggled, unshaven, bloodshot, and half crocked. I’d be skeptical too. “I’m sorry about your wife,” he says.

“Yeah,” I say, closing the door behind him. “You and me both.”

Upstairs, Russ has crawled under the covers in the darkness of what used to be his room. Everything is just as he left it, because, as with just about every other room in the house, I haven’t disturbed anything in the year since Hailey died. The house is like a freeze-framed picture of the life we once had, snapped in the instant before it was obliterated. I stand backlit in the hallway, my shadow falling on the bends and folds of his comforter as I try to come up with something to say to this strange, angry boy to whom I am supposed to somehow feel connected.

“I can hear you breathing,” he says without lifting his face off the pillow.

“Sorry,” I say, stepping into the room. “So, what was the fight about?”

“Nothing. These assholes just started talking shit to us.”

“They go to your school?”

“Nah, they were older guys.”

“I guess it’s hard to put up too much of a fight when you’re stoned.”

“Right.” He rolls over and lifts his head to sneer at me. “Do you really feel like you’re the best person to give me a lecture on the evils of drugs, Captain Jack?”

I sigh.

“Yeah. I didn’t think so,” he says, rolling back onto his pillow and burrowing his face into his arms. “Look, it’s been a long fucking night, so if you don’t mind . . .”

“I lost her too, Russ,” I say.

He makes a sound into his arms that might be a derisive snort or a smothered sob, I can’t quite tell. “Just close the door on your way out,” he whispers.

You never know when you’re going to die, but maybe something in you does, some cellular consciousness that’s aware of the cosmic countdown and starts making plans, because on the last night of her life, Hailey surprised me by wearing a bloodred dress, cut low and tight in all the right spots. It was almost as if she knew what was coming, knew that this would be our last night together, and she was determined to keep herself from fading too quickly into the washed-out colors of memory.

I couldn’t stop looking at her, my eyes dwelling for longer than usual on the familiar curves and contours of her body, still lithe and toned after one child and almost forty years, on the soft pockets of her exposed clavicles, the satiny white surface of her skin, and I wanted her in exactly the way you generally don’t want someone you’ve been sleeping with for almost three years. I found myself considering the practical implications of sneaking away from the table to meet in the bathroom for a quickie, pictured us in the confines of the locked bathroom, chuckling at our audacity between deep kisses as I pressed her up against the wall, the red dress pulled up over her waist, her smooth bare legs wrapped around me, pulling me into her. That’s what happens when you spend enough years living on your own with premium cable.

But even as the mental image aroused me to the point of discomfort beneath the table, I knew it wasn’t going to happen. For one thing, there was no way for both of us to slip away inconspicuously. For another, I was twenty-eight and Hailey almost forty, and while I liked to think that our sex life was good, better than most probably, quickies in public restrooms were no longer part of our repertoire. Actually, they’d never really been part of it to begin with, since I’m somewhat germ phobic, and the thought of exchanging fluids in the presence of all that random bacteria would be more than I could handle.

On the drive home, my hand slid higher and higher up the smooth vanilla expanse of her bare thigh, and by the time we’d pulled into the garage she was in my pants. I pulled up her dress in the darkness and bent her over the hood of the car, still hot and pinging from the drive, and then we were hot and pinging and we were teenagers again, except we were good at it, and we actually owned the car.

We must have been trailing afterglow like fairy dust when we came into the house a short while later, because Russ paused his video game, gave us a funny look, and then shook his head and told us to get a room. “No need,” Hailey said, grabbing my hand and heading for the stairs. “We’ve already got one.”

“Gross!” he said and, having rendered his judgment, went back to nonchalantly annihilating the undead on the wide- screen. And Hailey and I went upstairs to break the laws of God and the state of New York, and we went at it deliriously, with a renewed passion, kissing and licking and drinking and devouring each other. Like there was no tomorrow.

We’d been married for just under two years. I had left the city and moved in with Hailey and Russ, into the small Colonial she’d lived in with her first husband, Jim, until she found out he was cheating on her and kicked him out. And I was still getting used to the transformation, to being a husband in suburbia instead of a prowling dick in the city, to being a stepfather to a sullen teenager and the youngest member of the Temple Israel softball team, to dinner parties and backyard barbecues and school plays. I was still getting used to all of that when she got on a plane to see a client in California and somewhere over Colorado the pilot somehow missed the sky. And sometimes that life we were only just starting seems as tenuous to me as a fading dream, and I have to convince myself that it was actually real. I had a wife, I say to myself, over and over again. Her name was Hailey. Now she’s gone. And so am I.

But we’re not going to talk about that right now, because to talk about it I’ll have to think about it, and I’ve thought it to death over the last year. There are parts of my brain that are still tirelessly thinking about it, about her, an entire research and development department wholly dedicated to finding new ways to grieve and mourn and feel sorry for myself. And let me tell you, they’re good at what they do down there. So I’ll leave them to it.

Reading Group Guide

When twenty-seven year old Doug Parker traded in his bachelor pad for a house in the suburbs, complete with a teenaged stepson, he never expected that two years later he would suddenly lose the woman who meant everything to him. Without beautiful, confident Hailey to guide him through the challenges of now becoming a true surrogate father to her son Russ, Doug is on his own to navigate their new course.

And while he knows he can’t travel back to the way things were, it will take a bossy twin sister under his roof, and some colorful mistakes, before Doug will realize how far he has come, and appreciate how far he will go.

1. Doug suffered a tragic and sudden loss, but in the fall-out of this event hasn’t always behaved the way one would hope to if in his shoes. Do you empathize with Doug or is his self-destructive behavior a detriment to his character? What allowances would you give to someone who is grieving, and when do their actions become unforgivable?

2. What are Doug’s views on marriage both before and after meeting Hailey? Do they change after he loses his spouse? Do you foresee him eventually remarrying?

3. Following his stroke, Doug’s father underwent a personality change. Describe how this changed his relationship with his family, especially with his son. Does Doug see him as a role model; why or why not? Discuss the parallels between father and son after a traumatic event.

4. How would the story be different if it were not told in the first-person narrative? Is Doug’s omniscient perspective at the heart of the novel? How would the tone change if it was being told from someone outside looking in at Doug?

5. How does the novel’s suburban setting play a role? What is the author’s attitude about living in the suburbs? Do you think the portrayal of the town is meant to be satirical?

6. The author is a man–were you reminded of this while reading the novel? Would a female author writing this story have as effectively portrayed the macho attitude and competitiveness that exists between the male characters?

7. “I had a wife. Her name was Hailey. Now she’s gone. And so am I.” This passage appears on pages 74, 141, 282, 329, and 330 and serves as a mantra. When Doug repeats it, do you think this “reality check” provides him with comfort or is it destructive to his recovery? Does its’ meaning, or his reasons for evoking the mantra, evolve?

8. Do you feel that Doug overcomes his grief? Does it change him; if so, how? Does grieving necessarily change a person? Can it be treated like other ailments that one conquers, or is it a permanent part of the sufferer, something that continues to live within them, ever changing but present?

9. Discuss the significance of setting. How are family dynamics illustrated by their surroundings and locale? Is Hailey’s home and her belongings another character that haunts this story–the bra left hanging on the bathroom doorknob, the bottles of perfume collecting dust on her dresser?

10. How do the author and his protagonist use humor both in the sense of it being a literary tool, and as a way the characters relate to each other?

11. Doug’s extended family is as endearing as they are dysfunctional. How do they compare to your ideal definition of a family?

12. Compare Doug’s relationships with his two sisters–Claire, his twin, and Debbie, the youngest. What role does being a twin serve in Doug’s life? How does Debbie’s wedding bring out the individual struggles of many of the characters in the novel?

13. Discuss betrayal as it manifests itself across a wide range of connections–between spouses, friends, and siblings.

14. “The course of true love is never straight.” (page 338) This is true for several of the characters. Do you think it is a universal truth? Is love so simple that people turn it into something which is complicated, or is it as complex as the people it involves?

15. Are you optimistic at the end of the novel that life will improve for Doug?

Interviews

Jonathan Tropper writes about his novel, How to Talk to A Widower.
How to Talk to A Widower started out as a very different book. Before that, it started as a highly morbid and inappropriate dinner conversation. My wife and two of her friends had flown off on a trip to Los Angeles. That night, I was out to dinner with the two other husbands, enjoying a rare stag night, when someone mentioned that our wives were still in mid-flight. At some point, it occurred to me that if their plane crashed, we would be three young widowers living in the same neighborhood. My remark was met with shock and disapproval. How could you even say such a thing? But that’s what writers do, we allow ourselves to keep thinking, imagining, empathizing, and discussing past the point where other people have willed themselves to stop.

Inspired, I began writing a novel about three men living with their families in the aftermath of an horrific plane crash in which their three wives died. I created three very different men, and three very different marriages. And about a hundred and eighty pages in, I shared it with my publisher, and we all came to the same consensus: It wasn’t very good. “It’s not very funny,” someone pointed out. “Well, it’s about three men whose wives have died. I wasn’t really going for ‘funny.’” “Still…” they said. After meditating on it for a bit – and by that I mean obsessing about it, day and night, for weeks - I realized that the problem was not that it wasn’t very funny, it was that it simply wasn’t very interesting. It was sad, and well written, and ultimately pointless. The characters weren’t coming alive for me, and it showed.

So I took a beat and did some soul searching. The beat lasted around seven months, during which everything I wrote was crap. I asked for and received an extension and then I made the gut wrenching decision to throw it all out and start over again. There was one character, of the three men, who showed some promise for me, a twenty-nine-year-old widower named Doug Parker, wallowing in grief, marooned in suburbia, and saddled with a rebellious stepson, his dead wife’s son from her first marriage. And as soon as I started to write the book about Doug, it all came together. I liked what I was writing. It felt right and true and even funny. I called the book After Hailey. The publishers preferred How To Talk To A Widower. They never like my titles. I’m used to it.

People ask me why I seem to always write about screwed up people, and I always respond that no one wants to read about happy, well adjusted people. Happy, well adjusted people are boring. Doug Parker is not happy. He’s sad, angry, terrified, lonely, horny, and hopeful. Sometimes he drinks too much. Sometimes he sleeps with inappropriate women. Sometimes he gets into fights. And every so often, when you least expect it, he manages to get it right.

Since the release of Widower here and abroad (it was actually a bestseller in the U.K.), I’ve heard from many widows and widowers who were moved to share their stories with me, and it’s been gratifying to hear that I’ve been able to a put a voice to some of their experience, that they found something to connect with in my character. For a fiction writer, there is no greater validation. I’m very proud of How to Talk To a Widower, even if I still can’t quite get used to the title. Sure, on the surface it’s about death and grief, but really it’s about life and love and family and the myriad ways there are to screw up all three.

I hope you enjoy it.

Introduction

When twenty-seven year old Doug Parker traded in his bachelor pad for a house in the suburbs, complete with a teenaged stepson, he never expected that two years later he would suddenly lose the woman who meant everything to him. Without beautiful, confident Hailey to guide him through the challenges of now becoming a true surrogate father to her son Russ, Doug is on his own to navigate their new course.

And while he knows he can’t travel back to the way things were, it will take a bossy twin sister under his roof, and some colorful mistakes, before Doug will realize how far he has come, and appreciate how far he will go.

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How to Talk to a Widower 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 76 reviews.
ddNJ More than 1 year ago
It took a couple chapters for me to get into this book because at first I thought the main character might be too self-absorbed to care about, but boy was I wrong! The family dynamics in this book are simply sublime. I have not laughed so hard -only to seconds later sob-- over fictional characters in a long time. Jonathan Tropper writes with the boldness of a 20-something young man, but then throws in unexpected sensitivity and grace. I couldn't put this book down and when it was over, I found myself missing Doug and Russ and Doug's dad and hoping for the best for them all.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book -- it was both engaging and witty 'at times laugh out loud funny' while at the same time poignant and touching. The points about grief and the fear of moving on resonated true, and the family dynamics were hilarious.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
How to Talk to a Widower is marvelously told. As a recent widow myself a can sympathize with Doug as he attempts to go on living after his wife dies suddenly. I laughed and I cried, fell in love with his family, especially his dad, and adored his friends. But Doug's stepson, Russ, stole my heart and then broke it into. I miss them all already.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very sweet, easy read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Another great book by Johnathan Tropper. Love his writing style and the characters he develops. Another quirky family we can't help but get attached to!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Being someone who was widowed at age 30, you tend to be careful about books on the subject but this book was AWESOME . . . it was funny, heartfelt and engaging. I may be biased but I LOVED the subject matter and the subjects. I immediately went out and got all of Topper's books after reading this one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i really have liked all of jonathan tropper's book so I picked this one up as soon as i could. it was a slow start but by the middle of the book i was very into it and couldn't put it down. alternatively funny and sad, by the end i was in tears. definitely recommend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I started reading this book while sitting on the floor of my neighborhood barnesandnobles. I reached page 90, and had to go on with my day so I bought the book without any hesitation. I've read one other Tropper book, but this one clearly stands out as the best. It was completely engaging. The characters were very true to life, the family dynamic was also true to life and incredibly funny. This book has a little bit of everything....humor, sadness, an anthropological view of the suburbs. One aspect of the story seemed a little far fetched to me, but I didn't even mind because I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the writing. There were a variety of points where I was awed by Tropper's use of language.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Twenty-nine years old Doug Parker cannot believe how fast life can change when his spouse Hailey dies in a plane crash. However, his grief is so great he struggles to leave their home and he writes about it in his magazine column so that many feel for him as a young widower raising a teenage stepson, Russ with big issues since his mom died. He wants to hide in his grief cocoon, but instead he becomes a media darling as everyone wants Doug on their show.------------- However, his woes turn uglier when his pregnant twin sister Claire leaves her husband and moves in with Doug and Russ. Her plan is to force her brother to move on with his life. Local females sympathize with Doug while a few want to be the one who take him out of his depression starting with the wife of his best friend, the strippers he meets, and the guidance counselor who worries about both males residing in the Parker home.------------ This is a well written character study of a young man grieving the unexpected death of his wife after just a couple years together. Doug is an interesting protagonist as he deals with issues ranging from guilt to loneliness to failing Russ, who has his own problems. The outside world wants in to his fishbowl adding more troubles to a troubled soul. Jonathan Tropper provides a strong tale that looks at the grief process from the differing perspective of a man under thirty unable to cope.------ Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Funny, sad & quirky. Liked the family & friends.
Tamianne on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is an enjoyable and easy read, which deals with grief and the relationships between its characters with the odd bit of humour, whilst respecting the seriousness of the topics.
michaeldwebb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The one had a sticker on the front - A Galaxy (as in the chocolate bar) Richard and Judy Summer read. Hmmm. Doesn't sound promising?It pretty much lives up to expectations as well, so I guess the old adage never judge a book by its cover (sticker) holds up pretty well here. It's the story of a widower with a vaguely disfunctional family working through his grief in a lightweight, vaguely untroubling, sub-Douglas Copeland kind of way. To be fair, the book is perfectly readable, a perfect summer beach read maybe, by not something that will live on for more that a few seconds after you close the book.
SmithSJ01 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I thought the plot was excellent and I was very much looking forward to reading this. In fact I thought it would be the best one out of this year's Richard & Judy selection. Sadly, for me, this wasn't the case. Doug and Hailey have been married for 2 years when she dies very tragically and Doug is left as a widowed step-father looking after Russ, her teenage son. The story revolves around a year of his bereavement. Ideally this should be a fabulous read but I found it very shallow and lacking emotion. I didn't expect to be weeping and wailing at every page but I expected to be feel sad and touched by something in the novel. There were aspects of it that I found revealing - such as which bed to sleep with the neighbour on (the married neighbour at that) and then choosing his won bed for the last girl he dated. You did see insights into his life but then I thought hang on, he's meant to be looking after the son how can he just drink himself into oblivion. Each chapter seemed to be the same, nothing stood out for me. If he was able to openly share his grief with the world through a magazine column why could he not begin to move on and help Russ work through the grief as well. I was pleased he 'did the right thing' eventually and although he hadn't adopted Russ previously he acknowledged his responsibilities and dealt with Russ' father. There was a lot about each character that was truly awful and I was thankful that my family and my husband's were not like this. They were kind to each other but it didn't seem to come naturally. His father however was a truly loveable character and redeemed the novel for me. I know everyone experiences grief differently and because I haven't in this way then for me I felt he was somewhat selfish when he had a teenager he was responsible for guiding. I thought there were areas that weren't particularly well written but equally there were a couple of parts I did laugh at.
LadyHazy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An absolutely brilliantly well written book.The basic story doesn't sound incredibly captivating, but it is so well written that it had me both crying with despair and crying with laughter in different places.Highly recommended - I look forward to reading more books by Mr Tropper.
dhelicious on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I bought and read this book a long time ago so this review is long overdue and i cannot let it pass and not praise this book. I don't know why i decided to buy it in the first place but whatever the reason I was glad that I did.Witty, funny (with a few laugh out loud moments). A story of a twenty nine year old man Dough Parker, whose early marriage life was cut short by the death of her beloved wife Hailey who is 10 years older than him. Grieving and drowning in self-pity,enter her pregnant twin sister who decided to leave her husband and move in with him uninvited determined to sort out his life around by suggesting for him to start back dating after 3 years of grieving along side too many bottles of jack daniels. And here goes his younger sister soon to be a bride trying to pull off a perfect wedding.With family reconnecting relationships, a wayward stepson who needs guidance, with funny hilarious dates scenarios things just gets interesting and spins out of control.Uplifting and realistic enough that you can't help but be infected by it. At the end of the book, I felt like I was a part of the family!
deezzy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book moved me to tears and laughter. It's the story of a young man called Doug who's wife has been killed in a plane crash. His journey is one initially of grief and depair. Then a realisation of other how others close to him are coping (or not) with their own demons.
nicholai on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Hopeless narcassitic self-despair can be
CDianeK on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's a funny thing about Jonathan Tropper's novels. I look at the synopsis, think "Hmm, I just don't know..." Then I remember how much I've enjoyed his other novels, get it anyway, and in the end I'm so, so glad I did. One day maybe I'll break myself of this.Doug Parker is a celebrity of sorts; as a 29-year-old widower, he is an attractive target. At first, he is the target of his neighbors' and friends' sympathies, and then, as time goes by, he becomes ever more attractive to his single and married women friends. A man without the emotional pain of a divorce? No burdensome children? Where can they sign up?But Doug, despite the exhortations of his family, cannot get past the pain in a time frame that they deem appropriate. He misses his wife Hailey, who died in an airplane crash only three years into their marriage. His teenage stepson Russ, forced to return to his cheating and uninvolved father, is angry that he can't stay with Doug. His twin, Claire, unhappily married and pregnant, leaves her husband and moves in with Doug. His younger sister Deborah met Doug's "former best friend" while Doug was sitting shiva after Hailey's death, and is now planning her wedding, a union that infuriates Doug, who feels that Deborah and Mike, who wouldn't have met if it wasn't for Hailey's death, are finding too much happiness out of his tragedy. Likewise, Doug's agent is pressuring him to turn his magazine column about young widowhood into a book, another action Doug cannot stomach, as it would be profiting from Hailey's death. A father whose stroke has rendered him the father he always wanted to have, and a mother whose addictions are the family joke round out Doug's world.When Claire decides that she is going to reintroduce Doug to the dating world regardless of what he wants, he steps onto a whirlwind of a life, despite the fact that he'd rather get drunk and cry over his photos.I've blessedly never experienced a grief such as Doug's but as Tropper writes it, it is believable and true-feeling. There is no magic timeline, there is no point where the guilt stops and the living begins. We follow as Doug works his way through the realities of his life and begins to put the pieces back together into a form that, though not perfect, can be dealt with.Populated with memorable, realistic and hysterical characters, and a easily-followed storyline, How to Talk to a Widower is a fantastic work. Nicely done.
bigorangemichael on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Doug Parker is a 29-year old widower. He lost his wife Hayley (who was older) in a plane crash and has spent the last year avoiding life in Jonathan Tropper's "How to Talk to a Widower."And while much of Doug's world is defined by his depression and anger over losing Hayley, it's not the only thing going on his life. His twin sister Clair is pregnant and leaving her husband, his father suffered a stroke and has good and bad days and his younger sister met her fiancee at the shiva for Hayley. And that's before you get to a rebelling step-son and Doug's decision to try living life again--if by living you mean, sleeping with the wife of a good friend, dating again and falling for the guidance counsellor at his step-son's school.Tropper channels a Nick-Hornby-like vibe with first-person narrator Doug. Doug makes choices he admittedly knows are wrong, but continues the path due to his perceived pain and anguish over losing Hayley. Doug is, at times, selfish and the story is about his growing up. It's about coming to grips with the pain and realizing that Hayley would want him to continue living his life.Now, it all sounds a bit dark and it is. But Tropper has filled this book with so many memorable characters that there are light moments sprinkled in the story to keep the reader from getting totally depressed. The circus of women around the newly-dating Doug is worth the price of admission alone.Funny, sarcastic and sardonic all at the same time, "How To Talk to a Widower" is an ideal book for guys and the women who want to understand them. And don't let the new cover fool you. It looks like a light romance novel, but underneath is a story of a guy dealing with his demons. And while there is some romance, I wouldn't say it's a romance in the strictest sense of the word.
Deb32 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another super enjoyable read from Jonathan Tropper - not as laugh-out-loud funny as some other books of his, but amusing just the same. Very easy to read - I read it in one sitting. The story of a recent widower, the step son he inherits, and his crazy family. Very honest, sometimes extremely touching. It is the kind of book that makes me remember why I love to read.
TexasBookLover on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"I had a wife. Her name was Hailey. Now she's gone. And so am I." This is Doug's mantra. He is 29 years old. He had been married to Hailey for 2 years when she died in a plane crash. Hailey has been dead for a year now and Doug is trying to cope with himself, her house in suburban Westchester and her teenage son Russ, both of which he inherited. He is pretty much making a hash of things. He self-medicates: drinks a lot, smokes a little weed, eats nothing but frozen artery-clogging food and hides from friends and family. Then one day his twin sister Claire arrives on his lawn and announces her plans to patch him up and push him out into the rest of his life. Doug reluctantly agrees to the plan.What happens after this is usually hilarious and often bittersweet, involving Russ, Doug's boss and job, his family, a few blind dates, a wedding and a shooting. But relax, the comedy is not irresponsible or disrespectful. Doug does not suddenly snap out of his depression but evolves realistically over the course of another year. This is a satisfying read. You don't have to work too hard but there's still plenty of substance. It will leave a smile on your face.
heike6 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is really funny!
stonelaura on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While not a bad story really, I¿d hesitate to recommend it to the average patron at the library because of the liberal use of the F word, that I know is offensive to many patrons, and even though my tolerance is quite high I actually grew tired of hearing it over and over. Otherwise, the story of a grieving young widower, his wacky twin sister, his pill-popping mother, his acting-out stepson, his falling into dementia father, his meatloaf-providing eager for sex neighbor, and the perfect-for-him school counselor, is not bad, but not totally engrossing either. I got tired of Doug¿s apathy and didn¿t really believe the jealous husband gun scene. Tropper¿s kind of a Nick Hornby, Jennifer Cruise wannabe, and he¿s OK, but not as good as either one.
leadmomma on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was very compelling --- once I got to a certain place in the book, I had to finish it that night. Regardless of a 6:00 am wake up, I was still turning the pages at 1:00. And once I was finished, I had that 'what happens next' itch that you get when you finish a good book. At first, I was a little slow to get into it --- death isn't a topic I normally read about --- but I am glad I stuck with it. I thought that the relationship between Russ and Doug was one of the highlights of the story, and to see how a man is impacted by grief was interesting --- a view one doesn't always get. Anyone who's lost someone will understand many of Doug's struggles for sure -- but it was done in such a way that you didn't feel bogged down in the grief.
debs4jc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A quirkly yet poignant look at grief. (excerpt from the book jacket) "Doug Parker is a widower at age twenty-nine, and in his quiet suburban town, that makes him something of a celebrity - the object of sympathy, curiosity, and, in some cases, unbridled desire. But Doug has other things on his mind. First there's his sixteen-year-old stepson, Russ: a once-sweet kid who now is getting into increasingly serious trouble on a daily basis. Then there are Doug's sisters: his bossy twin, Claire, who's just left her husband and moved in with Doug, determined to rouse him from his grieving stupor. And Debbie, who's engaged to Doug's ex-best friend and maniacally determined to pull off the perfect wedding at any cost." I enjoyed this read, the messed up family dynamics got the characters got in some pretty hilarious situtations, yet their problems were all things I could relate too. Don't read it if you don't like frank depictions of sex (or skip those parts), but otherwise if you like humor, especially with a serious or dark undertone, you'll enjoy this one.