“Too easy, to look back and see the signs in retrospect, to reformulate the narrative so it arcs to its conclusion. You want to preserve your own narrative, the one that doesn’t lead to this…”
Lesley Trites’ “How to be a Widow” provides the reader, vis à vis a masterly crafted second-person perspective, with a story about losing a partner to suicide, as well as a story about authorial and character choices. In so doing, she creates a vivid portrait of a woman dentist determined not to collapse in the face of what is arguably the most devastating event that can happen to a person, nor in the face of narratological—and chronological—sequencing.
In the story’s beginning, we are on a beach, after the fact—near the end, we receive the news. In between, we encounter young love, however oddly matched, parenthood, and chilling foreshadowing: “You find Keith in the kitchen, a still shadow at the sink. You turn on the light and shriek when you see his hands covered in blood. Don’t worry, he says, it’s just moose.”
Line after line, in imagery vivid and expert, this taut story allows the reader into the “radical honesty” of a woman who survived, is surviving, and will survive tragedy.
From the perspective not of the author but the reader, we learn “How to be a Widow,” through fiction that works not as an instructional guide but a skillfully-crafted—a formal and postmodern treatment of the unfathomable abyss of grief, as it were—piece of art.