In this tender and funny novel, award-winning author Hilma Wolitzer mines the unpredictable fallout of suddenly becoming single later in life, and the chaos and joys of falling in love the second time around. When Edward Schuyler, a modest and bookish sixty-two-year-old science teacher, is widowed, he finds himself ambushed by female attention. There are plenty of unattached women around, but a healthy, handsome, available man is a rare and desirable creature. Edward receives phone calls from widows seeking love, or at least lunch, while well-meaning friends try to set him up at dinner parties. Even an attractive married neighbor offers herself to him.
The problem is that Edward doesn’t feel available. He’s still mourning his beloved wife, Bee, and prefers solitude and the familiar routine of work, gardening, and bird-watching. But then his stepchildren surprise him by placing a personal ad in The New York Review of Books on his behalf. Soon the letters flood in, and Edward is torn between his loyalty to Bee’s memory and his growing longing for connection. Gradually, reluctantly, he begins dating (“dating after death,” as one correspondent puts it), and his encounters are variously startling, comical, and sad. Just when Edward thinks he has the game figured out, a chance meeting proves that love always arrives when it’s least expected.
With wit, warmth, and a keen understanding of the heart, An Available Man explores aspects of loneliness and togetherness, and the difference in the options open to men and women of a certain age. Most of all, the novel celebrates the endurance of love, and its thrilling capacity to bloom anew.
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“Funny, wise and touching.”—The Washington Post
“Wonderful . . . [Hilma] Wolitzer’s vision of the world, for all its sorrow, is often hilarious and always compassionate.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Smart and poignant, An Available Man explores some universal truths—that the past is never past, life is for the living, and dating is really, really hard.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
“Charming . . . Wolitzer is a champ at the closely observed, droll novel of manners.”—NPR
“[Hilma Wolitzer is an] American literary treasure.”—The Boston Globe
“A deeply satisfying story of love lost and found.”—Bookreporter
Wolitzer (Summer Reading) looks at life after death; the life, that is, of a youngish widower after the death of his much loved wife. Families are Wolitzer's turf, and she's an observant and often humorous chronicler of domesticity and the stuff that comes with it: illness, loss, boredom, crankiness, and, on good days, love. Her main character, science teacher Edward Schuyler, is likable and believable, both in his grief and his confusion when interested women start coming out of the woodwork. When one turns out to be from his past, things take a slightly melodramatic turn, and though never escalating to a level of serious danger, the threat is there. Or perhaps the threat of a threat; it feels as if Wolitzer wants to heighten and defuse at the same time. Of course "domestic" doesn't mean safe, and we're supposed to share in Edward's unease and in his hope that all will be well, but the effect is more irritating than suspenseful. When tension is packed off in a few pages in favor of a happy ending for all, it's both a relief we've gotten fond of Edward and want the best for him and a disappointment, because of how contrived it feels.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Book moves pretty fast. It hits life where you would expect and leaves you feeling hope. It was enjoyable.
An Available Man
Good story but I found the characters flat and the pace slow. And the ending felt like a "then I woke up" sequence. Too easy, too convenient.
A very good read!
Nicely done portrait of a widower, resists the impetus to be maudlin or self pitying and instead offers a nice tapestry of honest simple characters. Nicely written with just enough élan to go one step above very good. Thank God this was not the uber heart rending over-romanticism of Nicholas Sparks that had feared when I read the intro. A gentle book. A solid 4 out of 5 and worth the time.