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  • The Widower
  • Written by Liesel Litzenburger
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780307346087
  • Our Price: $11.99
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The Widower

A Novel

Written by Liesel LitzenburgerAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Liesel Litzenburger


List Price: $11.99


On Sale: August 15, 2006
Pages: 256 | ISBN: 978-0-307-34608-7
Published by : Crown Crown/Archetype
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What if every life is connected to every other by a single thread?

Under an apple tree, in a small town on the edge of a great lake, something is beginning.

In a house on a hill above an orchard, a broken man stares out his window but doesn’t see the swaying branches or the summer sun. He sees only his wife’s face and feels again the dreadful sense of falling.

Walking between the trees, a recently freed prisoner is learning how to live in the world again when he makes a discovery that will change many lives forever.

Memories haunt Swanton Robey. The horrific accident that killed his young wife has taken all but his life, leaving him a prisoner of his injuries and his heart’s great loss. Floating through his days with dreams of the past and visions of what might have been, Swan watches the world through his high window but never ventures into it, gazing out over the apple orchard he owns but has abandoned, and beyond it, to the great and mysterious lake.

Joseph Geewa has been a prisoner too, for a crime triggered by grief, ordained by fate. Now free after twenty years, he is trying to build a life among the living—an existence of simple beauty, of choices created through the kindness of others. Grace, his niece, is guiding him back to the world, even as she is drawn to Swan’s tragic isolation. Then, an astonishing discovery in Swan’s orchard suddenly forces the two men together and propels them on a journey of rescue and revelation that in turn might set them both free.

In The Widower, lives entwine in the most unexpected ways, bound together by accidents and twists of fate that can forever hold us one to another. Narrated in episodes that seamlessly join the past and present, this is a story about how individual histories influence present lives, about the value of compassion and the power of forgiveness. Weaving threads of love and mystery through every page, Liesel Litzenburger’s spare and lyrical novel follows the lives of unforgettable characters in a profound story of loss and redemption.

From the Hardcover edition.


Chapter 1

Grace Blackwater is downstairs, saving his life one small gesture at a time. He can hear her straight through the worn wood floor beneath his bed, going about her business as if she owns the place. She doesn’t own the place. He hadn’t called her, but she has come–up the long dirt driveway on her motorcycle at dawn and in through an open kitchen window, using her jackknife to slit the screen that has been repaired again and again with duct tape. Upstairs, in his bed, he has heard even this, the silver blade parting the length of fine mesh with the whir of a hummingbird. Every door in the house is unlocked. Grace likes to do things the hard way. He was glad she hadn’t shot off the locks. She has some talents. He does, too. What are they? He doesn’t know anymore. He sure can’t dance, would make a lousy poker player, doesn’t know any magic tricks, isn’t much for meaningful conversation. He is a champion of deep sleep. He excels at the long rest.

Now he lies still listening to Grace, his echoing ear shoved hard to the pillow, a swimmer turning his face to the bottomless lake. His hearing has become intermittently acute–that is a talent, and that’s what they called it, the medical term, acute–nerve endings raw and shiny as spliced wire, looped together like a telephone cord. He invents sounds, puts them in his room. Often he hears a helicopter flying low somewhere near, and often, too, he hears the fast turn of the sprinklers, spinning water into the apple orchards down the hill at night, spinning silver drops down upon his bed.

It all keeps turning without him, the earth and its sounds of the living. In this house the quiet fills his mind with memories, real and imagined. It is impossible to know that the sound of someone’s voice can be lost forever until it is gone. He wants to hear his wife’s voice again.

Grace is humming, and he throws back the blankets with his good arm and turns to lie flat, to float. Breathing has become a talent, too. He has a chipped front tooth, calloused hands, hair the color of sun, and a broken soul. He is thirty-seven years old. His body is roped with scars that twine and reach like vines around his legs and arms, across a shoulder. One divides him in two, a zipper running the length of his chest. Look at you. Let me shake your hand. You’re one of those lucky guys. Lucky to be alive. He’s lucky; that’s his true talent. He lives.

A white sheet covers all but his face, which is untouched by steel or glass, spared. Below him, Grace has finished her chores and is already repairing the ripped screen with duct tape, making things right. In his dream he feels a hand reach deep inside his chest and lift his heart up and out with a quick tug, like a loose tooth tied to the knob on a slamming door. His grandmother used to do that when he was a boy. He lives on a hill above the orchard in his grandparents’ old farmhouse. They are long passed, his parents more recently gone.

Since he’d released himself from the hospital in May, he hasn’t left his house, these walls. He lives alone, except when Grace breaks in.
Mr. Robey, you really need to keep these appointments. We’ll work with you on this. Mr. Robey? He sleeps most days. Asleep, he realizes he doesn’t need anyone or anything. He doesn’t need his heart anymore and he’s glad to see it go. Take it. Even his dreams have sound. His yanked heart makes a pop like a lightbulb dying. Other days, it’s the hiss of a snowflake melting on warm skin. Grace rattles in a drawer, and the refrigerator door slams shut with a punch. The last task she gives herself is his breakfast, soft-boiling two eggs, pouring coffee, whistling as she waits for the toast. She must think he might try something funny, something stupid, today of all days, the anniversary of the accident.

She has always loved him, too much. She is saving his life, fixing him with duct tape and eggs. He can just ?oat above her, listen as she opens all the curtains, lets in light. It sure is cold out here!
someone tells him. But we’ll get you inside soon.

Today is the first of July, when the apples in the trees are the size of small pink fists and, this far north, the big lake has just swallowed its last sliver of ice somewhere in the blue deep. His wife has been dead for exactly six months. Everything worth knowing is a secret.

From the Hardcover edition.
Liesel Litzenburger

About Liesel Litzenburger

Liesel Litzenburger - The Widower

Photo © Wende Alexander Clark

Liesel Litzenburger’s stories and essays have appeared in magazines, journals, and anthologies. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has written for the Detroit Free Press and the Chicago Tribune. She has taught writing at several colleges and universities, including the University of Michigan, New College, and the Interlochen Arts Academy, and is the recipient of awards and residences from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, Yaddo, and the MacDowell Colony. She lives in Michigan.


“Immediately indelible characters... intensely palpable and delicately drawn. I was totally swallowed by the story... like a fine painting you enter and utterly inhabit. Litzenburger is so obviously a fine writer.” —Jim Harrison, author of True North

“Tense and terrific... The Widower is a mystery and a heartbreak and a road trip... and Litzenburger is an original, delivering an intricate story layer by layer, character by character, accident by misunderstanding, right to the devastatingly satisfying ending.” —Bill Roorbach, author of Temple Stream: A Rural Odyssey

From the Hardcover edition.

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