The Widow’s Guide to Sex and Dating
Henry Holt / February 11, 2014 / $25.00 print, $11.99 digital
Claire Byrne is a quirky and glamorous 34-year-old Manhattanite and the wife of a famous, slightly older man. Her husband, Charlie, is a renowned sexologist and writer. Equal parts Alfred Kinsey and Warren Beatty, Charlie is pompous yet charming, supportive yet unfaithful; he’s a firm believer that sex and love can’t coexist for long, and he does little to hide his affairs. Claire’s life with Charlie is an always interesting if not deeply devoted one, until Charlie is struck dead one day on the sidewalk by a falling sculpture ... a Giacometti, no less!
Once a promising young writer, Claire had buried her ambitions to make room for Charlie’s. After his death, she must reinvent herself. Over the course of a year, she sees a shrink (or two), visits an oracle, hires a “botanomanist,” enjoys an erotic interlude (or ten), eats too little, drinks too much, dates a hockey player, dates a billionaire, dates an actor (not any actor either, but the handsome movie star every woman in the world fantasizes about dating). As she grieves for Charlie and searches for herself, she comes to realize that she has an opportunity to find something bigger than she had before—maybe even, possibly, love.
For those who read Carole Radziwill’s searing, poignant memoir What Remains, about losing her husband Anthony, to cancer, just weeks after the deaths of her best friends Carolyn Bessette Kennedy and John F. Kennedy, Jr., there’s only one bit of overlap with her raucous new novel, and it’s a funny one. Radziwill borrowed a real-life incident in which she interviewed a doctor about the ideal woman (it has to do with her waist to hip ratio). Other than that, the Real Housewife has left melodrama behind in favor of drama of the zaniest kind in her debut novel. So while Claire Byrne, her protagonist, interviews a strikingly similar expert doctor, midway through she learns that her husband, the famed writer and sexologist Charles (Charlie) Byrne, has been killed. No, not murder, at least, not by a human, but by a falling piece of art—a counterfeit Giacometti sculpture, at that—after enjoying an extramarital assignation.
[Sounds like instant karma to us...]