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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (32,283 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: John Irving Narrator: George Guidall Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: July 2005 ISBN: 9780739320921
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Ruth Cole is a complex, often self-contradictory character—a “difficult” woman. By no means is she conventionally “nice,” but she will never be forgotten.

Ruth’s story is told in three parts, each focusing on a crucial time in her life. When we first meet her—on Long Island, in the summer of 1958—Ruth is only four.

The second window into Ruth’s life opens in the fall of 1990, when Ruth is an unmarried woman whose personal life is not nearly as successful as her literary career. She distrusts her judgment in men, for good reason.

A Widow for One Year closes in the autumn of 1995, when Ruth Cole is a forty-one-year-old widow and mother. She’s about to fall in love for the first time.

Richly comic, as well as deeply disturbing A Widow for One Year is a multilayered love story of astonishing emotional force. Both ribald and erotic, it is also a brilliant novel about the passage of time and the relentlessness of grief.

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Quotes & Awards

  • A Widow for One Year delivers everything John Irving fans have come to expect from the beloved author of The World According to Garp: a funny, sad, sprawling saga full of oddball yet believable characters. Glamour
  • “There’s only one thing wrong with John Irving novels: They have to end. Readers won’t easily part with the characters in his latest work, A Widow for One Year. . . . [An] exhilarating talent. The Tennessean
  • “Moving and memorable . . . This novel marks a return to the deep but gentle examination of human nature that made Garp so successful. San Diego Union-Tribune
  • “May be Irving’s best book . . . A remarkable achievement. Sunday Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA)
  • “Ruth Cole…emerges as a complex, conflicted woman…She is Irving’s most emotionally detailed character yet…An engaging and often affecting fable, a fairy tale that manages to be old-fashioned and modern all at once.”

    New York Times

  • “IRVING’S MOST ENTERTAINING AND PERSUASIVE NOVEL SINCE . . . THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP. The New York Times
  • “DEEPLY AFFECTING . . . The pleasures of this rich and beautiful book are manifold. To be human is to savor them. Los Angeles Times Book Review
  • “Comic and tragic, brilliant, and moving . . . Crammed with all the wonderful characters, quirky situations and memorable coincidences that have made [Irving] so beloved by readers . . . A terrific read that will make you its willing slave, so captivating is its allure. Chattanooga Free Press
  • “A feast . . . One of this storyteller’s richest works. . . . A rich, resonant tale. Austin American-Statesman
  • “Irving is a writer whose keenest sensibilities have always fallen somewhere between Dickensian verbosity and Mad magazine mischief. Rocky Mountain News
  • “Full of humor, heartbreak and lust. Newsday
  • POWERFUL . . . A MASTERPIECE. St. Louis Post-Dispatch
  • “[A] sprawling, complex family history . . . Wisely and carefully crafted. USA Today
  • “A sprawling 19th-century production, chock full of bizarre coincidences, multiple plot lines, lengthy digressions, and stories within stories. . . . An engaging and often affecting fable, a fairy tale that manages to be old-fashioned and modern all at once. The New York Times
  • “[Irving’s] characters can beguile us onto thin ice and persuade us to dance there. His instinctive mark is the moral choice stripped bare, and his aim is impressive. What’s more, there’s hardly a writer alive who can match his control of the omniscient point of view. The Washington Post Book World
  • “In the sprawling, deeply felt A Widow for One Year, John Irving has delivered his best novel since The World According to Garp. . . . Like a warm bath, it’s a great pleasure to immerse yourself in. Entertainment Weekly
  • “Enchantingly balances the haunting tug of grief with the lure of enduring love . . . Irving’s rich narrative and his sense of play result in a delicious collusion between author and reader. Raleigh News & Observer
  • WONDERFULLY SATISFYING . . . [Irving] tells this story with so much delight that it’s difficult for the reader not to be infected with the same kind of joy in the reading. The Dallas Morning News
  • “A POWERFUL TALE TO ADD TO AN ALREADY EXTRAORDINARY BODY OF WORK FROM A GREAT AMERICAN WRITER. Richmond Times-Dispatch
  • “MASTERFUL . . . POWERFUL . . . Irving’s best books are Dickensian in their rich characters, plotting and language—and of course, in moving the reader. On the final page of A Widow for One Year . . . I literally burst out crying. Orlando Sentinel
  • “As compelling as Garp . . . Which is to say it’s terrific. . . . His most moving book . . . John Irving is one of America’s great storytellers. San Jose Mercury News
  • BY TURNS ANTIC AND MOVING, LUSTY AND TRAGIC, A Widow for One Year is bursting with memorable moments. San Francisco Examiner-Chronicle
  • “WISELY AND CAREFULLY CRAFTED . . . Irving is among the few novelists who can write a novel about grief and fill it with ribald humor soaked in irony. USA Today
  • “[Irving’s] characters can beguile us onto thin ice and persuade us to dance there. His instinctive mark is the moral choice stripped bare, and his aim is impressive. What’s more, there’s hardly a writer alive who can match his control of the omniscient point of view.”

    Washington Post Book World

  • “Moving and memorable…This novel marks a return to the deep but gentle examination of human nature that made Garp so successful.”

    San Diego Union-Tribune

  • “As compelling as Garp. It might be even better. Which is to say it’s terrific…Filled with compassion and complexity…A tribute to Irving’s powers as a writer…His most moving book…A Widow for One Year demonstrates, without a doubt, that John Irving is one of America’s great storytellers.”

    San Jose Mercury News

  • “An awfully fun—and funny—book…[A Widow for One Year] revolves around the world according to Ruth Cole, the daughter of a lecherous Long Island children’s book author and his beautiful, haunted wife. Irving’s strength has always been his characters…And Ruth…is one of Irving’s most fully realized creations to date.”

    Sunday Oregonian

  • “A feast…One of this storyteller’s richest works…Irving has stuck to his guns, outlived and out-written the minimalists, and every few years gives us a rich, resonant tale.”

    Austin American-Statesman

  • “Irving is a writer whose keenest sensibilities have always fallen somewhere between Dickensian verbosity and Mad magazine mischief; a writer whose work is informed by characters and events that run the gamut from the tender to the tragic…He has created in Ruth Cole a wisely enigmatic character, at once feisty and frail…A sphinx full of riddles on the road to personal redemption. Redemption ultimately seems at the heart of all Irving’s novels, people striving to rise above the absurdities of their life, daring to see some greater purpose in the mortar of their daily grind. A Widow for One Year celebrates this fusion of comic forbearance and enduring hope beautifully.”

    Rocky Mountain News

  • “Ruth Cole is one of Irving’s most endearing curmudgeons: the perfect guide through the often rocky and uncertain landscape of the human heart.”

    Denver Post

  • “Comic and tragic, brilliant, and moving…Crammed with all the wonderful characters, quirky situations, and memorable coincidences that have made [Irving] so beloved by readers…A Widow for One Year is unquestionably a big novel…in its scope, in its breadth of subjects, and in its myriad diverse characters. It’s a terrific read that will make you its willing slave, so captivating is its allure.”

    Chattanooga Free Press

  • “In the sprawling, deeply felt A Widow for One Year, John Irving has delivered his best novel since The World According to Garp…Like a warm bath, it’s a great pleasure to immerse yourself in.”

    Entertainment Weekly

  • A Widow for One Year delivers everything John Irving fans have come to expect from the beloved author of The World According to Garp: a funny, sad, sprawling saga full of oddball yet believable characters.”

    Glamour

  • “Enchantingly balances the haunting tug of grief with the lure of enduring love…Irving’s rich narrative and his sense of play result in a delicious collusion between author and reader.”

    Raleigh News and Observer

  • “Full of humor, heartbreak, and lust.”

    Newsday

  • “Masterful…Powerful…Irving’s best books are Dickensian in their rich characters, plotting, and language—and of course, in moving the reader.”

    Orlando Sentinel

  • “There’s only one thing wrong with John Irving novels: They have to end. Readers won’t easily part with the characters of his latest work, A Widow for One Year…[An] exhilarating talent.”

    Tennessean

  • “When characters are brilliant, funny, idiosyncratic, and memorable, you are square in the middle of really good storytelling.”

    Tampa Tribune Times

  • A 1998 New York Times Notable Book for Fiction

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Gloria | 2/18/2014

    " Great book - I rated this a '4' star, though really, I would prefer to have given it '4 1/2' stars. The book fully qualified as a 'flashlight' read and was a bit of a 'lightbulb' read too in that it gave me a sympathetic explanation as to how a parent could abandon a child. Never thought that could be possible! The author does an amazing job writing from a female perspective and telling a very complete story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Faisal | 2/11/2014

    " John Irving is a brilliant writter. I do not have much interest in American Culture, but this book is on so many levels and describes with such detail a period of about 60 years from an American Perspective as well as the changes a family and people go through within that time. A real good read an highly recommended. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Eliyana | 2/3/2014

    " boring. boring. boring "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Geraldine | 1/30/2014

    " Though I liked the story, which as ever is meticulously laid out by Irving, the narrative is at times long winded. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Marvin | 1/28/2014

    " A puzzling book; I'm not sure what it was about. There was a lot about how a writer writes, & a lot of sex, but it wasn't about either of those. A writer's mother leaves her when she's four after having a summer-long affair with a 16-year-old. She's raised by her philandering father & never sees her mother until she comes back for Eddie (the 16-year-old now in his 50s) when she's 76. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Silvio Renzulli | 1/28/2014

    " Another very good read by John Irving. I learned multiple POV's can be used to advantage by the author to draw in the reader. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lindasstranded | 1/23/2014

    " It was difficult to stay with this book in the beginning, it felt so long. I gained insight about the redlight district in Amsterdam which was fascinating. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Doris | 1/16/2014

    " I like Irving's writing, his descriptions, his story-telling expertise! Read this one! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Luc | 1/13/2014

    " Graag gelezen! Te crazy personages!!! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Deb Hallock | 1/12/2014

    " Between a 3 and a 4 star rating - a little drawn out but good! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ana Hays | 11/26/2013

    " Absolutly loved this book! Read it ~3-5 times! If you are a writer, it tells the story of the writing life! And the suspense is truly amazing. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Debbie Bowling | 11/17/2013

    " I enjoyed the book, but found the last chapter to have several 'endings' that did not work. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Gemski | 11/17/2013

    " Getting my teeth into a John Irving is always the first thing I do on holiday! This one didn't disappoint - highly recommended! "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Lillie Hoy | 11/16/2013

    " Just couldn't ever seem to actually finish it.... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lisa Kurt | 11/9/2013

    " This was one of my favorite John Irving books. There is something mesmerizing about his characters and their lives that I can never put the book down once I've started. The descriptions of Amsterdam I enjoyed too- it was a character in and of itself. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Julie Kontra | 11/1/2013

    " Excellent plot line, but it disappointingly veered off into the unbelievable. The last three-quarters and ending were lukewarm, at best. Well-written, full of tongue-in-cheek humor, but not one of Irving's best. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Humkeb | 8/25/2013

    " Anxious to read mor John Irving books. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 wigger | 8/23/2013

    " Bittersweet love stories, family tradgedies, quirky characters, typical John Irving. That is to say: great, suprising, erotic & depressing. Irving is like blues music, you know the form but the interest is in how he manipulates it to get from point a to point b. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Michiel | 8/13/2013

    " Film ook sterk, denk met Jeff Bridges en heet 'Hole in the floor', geflipt einde! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Denise Derocher | 1/25/2013

    " Not one of his better works... "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Sbrenek | 4/28/2012

    " blegh "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Biogeek | 4/17/2012

    " The strength of this novel lies in the development of his characters, and this is best done withe the characters at the start of this novel that spans generations. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Gretchen Paulson | 2/29/2012

    " Much better than the movie was. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 EMW | 1/6/2012

    " Compelling, disturbing and, finally, irritating which is why I didn't finish it. Irving's writing is like crack but in the end the story became so far-fetched that I just didn't feel like continuing -a rare thing for me with this author. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Melody | 12/10/2011

    " Read this several years ago, but was an amazing story. I love John Irving. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Puspa | 9/2/2011

    " I especially liked the beginning. The end was too bland. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Doris | 5/22/2011

    " I like Irving's writing, his descriptions, his story-telling expertise! Read this one! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lauren | 5/20/2011

    " This book was incredibly engaging... it reignited my passion for his writing, having not read anything of his in years. The journey of the protagonist is phenomenal, and his common themes play out here in a fantastic fashion. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ida | 5/4/2011

    " Lovelovelove all he has ever done. Funny, inspirering, out of this world, mindblowing, simple yet complicated. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Mckenziewall | 5/3/2011

    " The first part of the book is really good. Typical Irving. The rest... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dixie | 4/19/2011

    " Loved that the minor characters were so well developed, and how I was able to "be" wherever the characters were, as well. Fantastic story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sarah | 4/18/2011

    " another engrossing read. I would have thought I'd be sick of to topics of prostitution and sex but when you write as good as Irving you can write about anything (and he includes mose everything in his novels) and make it so entertaining. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Amanda | 4/14/2011

    " I really liked this book. I saw the movie The Door in The Floor and really enjoyed it. The book continues on in Rose's life its really lets you see what really happened to the little girl who did grow up. There is a real twist in this book and I really thought it was well done. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Cassie | 4/8/2011

    " L O V E this book. A long read but John Irving's stories are so rich and entertaining that the pages fly by. He is a master story teller. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Susan | 4/6/2011

    " slow beginning- but more interesting and frustrating the deeper I got into it "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Patti | 4/1/2011

    " Couldn't put the book down. Emotionally rewarding story. The ending was beautifully perfect. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kristy | 3/30/2011

    " John Irving is possibly my favorite author of all times, and this book definitely vies for the top spot of my favorite of his books. I've read it multiple times and I never love it any less! "

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About the Author
Author John Irving

John Irving has been nominated for a National Book Award three times—winning once, in 1980, for the novel The World According to Garp, which became an international bestseller. In 1992, he was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma. In 2000, he won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Cider House Rules. In 2001, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His novels have been translated into thirty-five languages.

About the Narrator

George Guidall, winner of eighty-eight AudioFile Earphones Awards, has twice won the prestigious Audie Award for Excellence in Audiobook Narration. In 2014 the Audio Publishers Association presented him with the Special Achievement Award for an audiobook narrator of exceptional stature and accomplishment. During his thirty-year recording career he has recorded over 1,100 audiobooks, won multiple awards, been a mentor to many narrators, and shown by example the potential of fine storytelling. Among Guidall’s narration achievements are Crime and Punishment, The Iliad, and John Irving’s A Widow for One Year, which earned him an Audie Award for best unabridged narration of a novel, an honor he captured again for his rendition of Wally Lamb’s I Know This Much Is True. Guidall’s forty-year acting career includes starring roles on Broadway, an Obie Award for best performance off Broadway, and frequent television appearances.