The Small Widow

by Janet McNeill

img_3856-1back of the book:

Harold’s death leaves Julia a widow, alone and struggling with grief as well as her new life. How can she begin to build new relationships with her friends, what does she now owe to her children, or they to her? For the first time Julia has to learn independence, she needs to discover who she is when she is no longer a wife and is now a mother to children who do not need her. As a widow can Julia find a freedom, an identity, which has never existed in her life before?

Janet McNeill is one of the great writers of the disillusions of middle age, while her wry humor and compassion builds a spare and moving world. Her perceptive and intelligent writing is honest and unflinching in its understanding of the emotional conflicts of family life and the ironies of ordinary life.


After 32 years of marriage Julia is suddenly left a widow at 56. This is a well written story of probably most women’s middle age struggle whether left a widow or not. I enjoyed this and having just turned 60, saw myself in much of it. Although I still have my husband alive and well with me, I could definitely identify with this time of life. Once the kids are grown and out on their own with their own lives, my parents having passed away in the last few years, there is a real internal struggle with ‘who I am’ now that I’m not Mildred’s daughter, and the ‘mom relationship’ so different now that the kids have grown up lives of their own. Even the grand kids are older now and don’t want to spend hours being silly on Skype with me or cry when they have to go home from my house. It’s funny the timing, because it is something I’ve had on my mind and been praying about a lot lately. How can I be useful and contribute now that most of my main ‘uses’ in life have disappeared. How do I shift gears now and maintain a full constructive life? This story was just what the doctor ordered!

There are extended family relations and relationships included and a pretty major family secret that spills out too. Kept me reading, I read it in two days. Good book! I really like McNeill’s writing. Tea at Four O’clock was wonderful too. Hoping I can find more of her books.


Reading Ireland 18

5 thoughts on “The Small Widow

  1. I like the sound of this book, though I may have trouble finding it. My library doesn’t have it. Anyway, I’m at the same time of life as you. Daughter grown, parents gone, and turned 60 last fall. However, I find that there are lots of ways I can share my gifts and interests. Good luck with your ponderings about this time. You’ll get it figured out. 🙂

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    • Thanks, Kay. You’ll have to get this book online I’m afraid. I got a used copy on Amazon. We have recently ‘adopted’ a 28 year old young man from church into our lives. His family is all in FL. He is shy and seemed lonely. He’s a blessing to us and we to him.

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  2. It does sound like a good one. I think stories of discoveries of one self are always the best. And I think that, although this time in life is probably one of the most transforming, we do have to face changes of circumstance throughout our life. So I have a feeling that everyone can relate to such story as this one.
    Thansk so much for sharing 🙂

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