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Extended Audio Sample A Widow for One Year: A Novel, by John Irving Click for printable size audiobook cover
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:
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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

  • “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

  • “DEEPLY AFFECTING . . . The pleasures of this rich and beautiful book are manifold. To be human is to savor them. Los Angeles Times Book Review
  • 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 MOST ENTERTAINING AND PERSUASIVE NOVEL SINCE . . . THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP. The New York Times
  • “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
  • “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
  • “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
  • “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
  • POWERFUL . . . A MASTERPIECE. St. Louis Post-Dispatch
  • “[A] sprawling, complex family history . . . Wisely and carefully crafted. USA Today
  • 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)
  • “[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 by 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 by 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 by Eliyana | 2/3/2014

    " boring. boring. boring "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by 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. "

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