alone

How does Stewart O’Nan capture – so well – the life of an aging widow?

Getting dressed for the club, Emily struggled with her jade necklace.  She bent forward toward her vanity, chin tucked to her chest, arms curled behind her ducked head, blindly trying to pinch open the clasp and marry it to the tiny eyelet.  With every miss she let out her held breath like a sigh.  She’d get it eventually–she’d never failed yet.  It was the contorted position as much as the clumsiness of her efforts that was humiliating.  Over the years she and Henry had made a ceremony of the moment.  There was no need to ask him.  On formal occasions like tonight he would stand behind her like a valet, waiting for her to finish her makeup.  She’d find him admiring her in the mirror, and while she discounted his adoration of her beauty–based, as it was, on a much younger woman–she also relied on it, and as time passed she was grateful for the restorative powers of his memory.  No one else saw her the way he did.  He knew the eighteen-year-old lifeguard she used to be, and the fashionable grad student, the coltish young mother.  When he solved the clasp, he’d watch her regally settle the necklace on her chest, and then, with his hands on her shoulders, bend down and kiss the side of her neck, making her close her eyes.

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