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The Widower’s Tale by Julia Glass

The Widowers Tale by Julia GlassThe Widower’s Tale by Julia Glass

In a historic farmhouse outside Boston, seventy-year-old Percy Darling is settling happily into retirement: reading novels, watching old movies, and swimming naked in his pond. His routines are disrupted, however, when he is persuaded to let a locally beloved preschool take over his barn. As Percy sees his rural refuge overrun by children, parents, and teachers, he must reexamine the solitary life he has made in the three decades since the sudden death of his wife. No longer can he remain aloof from his community, his two grown daughters, or, to his shock, the precarious joy of falling in love. Continue Reading

One relationship Percy treasures is the bond with his oldest grandchild, Robert, a premed student at Harvard. Robert has long assumed he will follow in the footsteps of his mother, a prominent physician, but he begins to question his ambitions when confronted by a charismatic roommate who preaches—and begins to practice—an extreme form of ecological activism, targeting Boston’s most affluent suburbs.

Meanwhile, two other men become fatefully involved with Percy and Robert: Ira, a gay teacher at the preschool, and Celestino, a Guatemalan gardener who works for Percy’s neighbor, each one striving to overcome a sense of personal exile. Choices made by all four men, as well as by the women around them, collide forcefully on one lovely spring evening, upending everyone’s lives, but none more radically than Percy’s.

With equal parts affection and satire, Julia Glass spins a captivating tale about the loyalties, rivalries, and secrets of a very particular family. Yet again, she plumbs the human heart brilliantly, dramatically, and movingly.

Book Club Ideas


There are many flowers mentioned in the book that can be used for decorations.

Tiger Lilies – Clover gave a bouquet of tiger lilies to Ira to thank him for setting up
an appointment with Anthony (page 189).

Roses– Celestino was a “master gardener” of sorts and tended many gardens with roses.
He is preparing a bed for Percy that is perfect to plant roses (page 398).


Another decorating idea is to display a mason jar with pieces of broken plates – “The only memento of former owners was a mason jar, on the tank of the baby-blue toilet, filled with sea crockery” (page 389).  Percy decided that he would add to this odd collection.

What to Wear

Go with a Woodstock theme for your garb.

Ira wore black jeans, Grateful Dead t-shirt, and a fuchsia corduroy blazer and Anthony wore a cheap, chunky peace sign (page 351).  Evelyn wore Earth Shoes, a paisley maxidress and a jean jacket with a garland of fake daisies (page 356).  Get creative when dressing up 60’s style!

Here are some photos of our 60’s party.  Don’t forget the tee shirts –  tie dye tee shirts and 60’s rock band tee shirts are widely available on the Internet.

You can also wear a ring similar to the one Robert received from Aunt Clover.  Robert had a crush on his Aunt Clover and asked her if she would marry him when he was older.  Clover took Robert aside and explained how she was engaged to Todd but he would otherwise be a viable suitor.  “But you will always be special to me, forever and ever.”  She then handed him her pinkie ring, a ring with a pair of clasped hands (page 63).  Robert kept this ring in a box in his sock drawer and it makes an appearance two more times in the story (pages 142, 373).

Garnet Ring


Taking Woodstock (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Taking Woodstock [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]

Book Club Menu

Sandwiches were eaten many times throughout this book  so a Sandwich Tray would be a perfect appetizer.

When Celestino and Isabelle meet for lunch she orders Ceasar salad with grilled salmon (page 304). This  inspired me to make Tortellini Salmon Salad with Lemon Dill Dressing.

Seafood Salad

For dessert make a Pumpkin Tiramisu– Robert’s dad is preparing for Thanksgiving (page 203) and he makes a pumpkin tiramisu.  This sounded so good, I just had to try it.

Pumpkins, fall recipes, halloween

Other menu options

  • Thai food can be served.  Everyone meets for Clover’s birthday at My Thai restaurant (page 57) and they also have Thai food catered for the Woodstock Elves and Fairies auction (page 332).
  • Robert visits Uncle Todd in New York and Moira serves paella and strawberry shortcake (page 324 & 327).

** Robert’s friend, Arturo, is eco-fanatic.  You and your guests don’t need to be to that extreme but have some recycle bins set out so glass, plastic and paper can be recycled. **

Book Club Resources


  • “Elaborately plotted and luxuriously paced, Glass’s inquisitive, compassionate, funny, and suspenseful saga addresses significant and thorny social issues with emotional veracity, artistic nuance, and a profound perception of the grand interconnectivity of life.”  — Booklist (starred review)
  • “Glass handles the coalescing plot elements with astute insights into the complexity of family relationships, the gulf between social classes, and our modern culture of excess to create a dramatic, thought-provoking, and immensely satisfying novel.” — Publisher’s Weekly
  • “Some books grab you from the first page. Julia Glass’s novel, The Widower’s Tale, lightly touches you on the shoulder and requests your kind attention to an enchanting story of familial bonds and late-life romance…. Meanwhile, a rich mix of other characters play out their own dramas in a leisurely fashion. But who cares how long the journey takes when you’re in such good company?” — O Magazine (August 2010)

The Author

Julia Glass was born in Boston, Massachusetts and graduated from Yale in 1978.  Her debut novel, Three Junes, won the National Book Award in 2002.   The Widower’s Tale is her forth novel.

Other Works by Julia Glass

Three Junes by Julia Glass The Whole World Over by Julia Glass I See You Everywhere by Julia Glass

Personal Note

My favorite line in the book – “When I finished, he hadn’t a syllable at his service; not even the knee-jerk “Whatever” that members of his generation mutter when conversationally cornered” (page 4).    I love the “conversationally cornered” depiction of the phrase that is way overused by the youth of today.

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