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In 'Widow,' Stories Look At Life After A Spouse Dies

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Life alone after a spouse dies is the subject of a new collection of short stories from Michelle Latiolais. Her book is titled simply "Widow."

Alan Cheuse has this review.

ALAN CHEUSE: A husband dies and a writer goes deep into the place of suffering and regret. But in the case of Michelle Latiolais, this begins with an exploration of the language of widowhood.

In Sanskrit, she teaches us, the word means empty. And in the Old Testament, God instructs Moses that a widow is in the same category as profane and whore. The widowed author goes on to produce an incisive exploration of her state of being: the constancy of grief. It's, as she writes, its immediacy, its unrelenting physical pain and the creatural anguish, as she writes, of losing somebody else's body, their touch, their heat, their oceanic heart.

You can probably already tell that you don't come to this book seeking the pleasures of plot or character. Latiolais' radical love of language binds the entire book together in its gathering of experience, most of it dark. She makes us see and feel the beauty and power of flowers, knives, oysters, wine, tablecloths, and she can eroticize a teacup with a drop of a phrase.

The inveterate readers among you may be asking yourselves, do I read this book or Joyce Carol Oates' book of stories about widows and her recent memoir about widowhood? And I say to you, read them all, but begin first with Michelle Latiolais.

NORRIS: The book is "Widow." Our reviewer is Alan Cheuse. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Alan Cheuse
Alan Cheuse died on July 31, 2015. He had been in a car accident in California earlier in the month. He was 75. Listen to NPR Special Correspondent Susan Stamburg's retrospective on his life and career.