If you are looking for the perfect fast- paced, lighthearted, humorous novel, consider your search to be over. Carole Radziwill's debut novel, The Widow's Guide to Sex and Dating earns five out of five stars. Radziwill's novel is the perfect book for your solo reading or your next book club. The title is tongue-in-cheek, so you won't find yourself delving into deep grief issues. Instead, you will be carving out time to lose yourself in this splendid novel.
Humor permeates Radziwill's writing, and the dialogue is flawless. The reader is quickly drawn Claire's cluttered life. Clare was married to Charles Bryne, a sexologist and well-known author. Upon his death, he left Claire with some, shall we say, sensitive issues. There's the affair he was having, the book he was writing, and the life apart from Claire that he was actively living.
Suddenly widowed, Claire attempts to navigate the awkward waters of widowhood and dating with the help of well-meaning friends. Radziwill, writes, "The first days postmortem are a grab bag of surprises. Stories swirl. they ravel and unravel all around us, mostly beyond our control, and often at a frightening pace."
In this fast paced daily life, Claire realizes that there's no easy fix to her life crisis, so she develops her own set of rules to muddle through her new life. These rules, also not meant to be taken literally, can be applied to any dating situation. Rules such as: "Always judge a book by its cover. If you see your type coming, run. Ignorance is bliss," make this novel the complete triple package -- joy, humor, and romance
It is well known that Radziwill has not lived a purely blissful life. She wrote about the life and tragic deaths of her late husband Anthony Radziwill, John Kennedy Jr. and his wife Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy in the beautiful best- selling memoir, What Remains. Ms. Radziwill's husband and John Kennedy Jr. were cousins. Together the four of them were extremely close. On July 16, 1999, John Kennedy Jr., and his wife Carolyn died in a plane crash. On August 10, 1999, Ms. Radziwill's husband died after a long battle with cancer.
When Ms. Radziwill and I talked, she was open about the difficult and tragic deaths, and also very grounded. I shared with her some details about the death of my late husband to adrenal cancer, and she was extremely sensitive and generous. Instead of rushing to her next appointment, she asked more questions my husband. When asked why she wrote a memoir first and then a novel she refers to the element of time. "I started forgetting some things (about Anthony). I dabbled with it (the idea of a novel) before writing the memoir, but I was still thinking of my husband." Ms. Radziwill said she felt she had to write the memoir first before the novel.
Here is a part of my interview:
Kristin Meekhof (KM): You write in your book, "The first year of widowhood is specifically set aside for awkwardness." Did you talk with other widows about their first year experiences, post loss?
Carole Radziwill (CR): I spoke to young widows about their first year and we all had similar experiences. You are suddenly single in a couple's world. It makes dinner seating difficult. And its not a bonding experience with other girlfriends in the way divorce may be. Death is universally acknowledged to be awkward.
KM: Jack seems perfect -- a hero at just the right time to enter a vulnerable widow's life. Widows are looking for comfort after a tragic event, like a husband's death. Did you have this in mind when you created this character?
CR: Oh no. Quite the opposite. It would be wise advice to avoid a Jack Huxley if you are feeling vulnerable or looking for comfort. Claire even says if she were lucky she'd have dinner with Jack and walk away non-plussed, that she'd find his narcissism a bore. But of course Claire wasn't lucky. She did have a dead husband after all, and so, she fell. I was interested in creating a man that every women could immediately identify whether they had ever met a movie star or not. We all have these sorts of men in our head.
KM: I'm often curious how authors select names for their characters. How did you choose Huxley, Jack?
CR: It's such a good question because a name can be everything and they are more difficult then one imagines. And, well, Jack is the name of all heroes. I love the idea of mixing fiction with reality. So I wrote Jack as a character who was related to the real-life great novelist Aldous Huxley, who also had a brief but bright Hollywood career. I looked at Aldous' Huxley's family tree and it would be quite plausible that he'd have a nephew of Jack's age.
KM: Often authors project part of their personal experiences into their writing. Is Claire a combination of women you know -- not names?
CR: Like all characters in novels they are both real and imagined. Claire is no exception. She is certainly part of me, perhaps the essence of me and my imagination. She is how I think, and what I observe. But inspiration knows no gender because Charlie is also a part of me. For one thing, we are both neurotically obsessed with all things sexual.
KM: Did any of your experiences on Real Housewives Of New York (RHONY) inspire any of your writing? I noticed the reference to RHONY.
CR: Definitely not. Writing requires calm and introspection; two things RHONY is not. I wrote that in as dialogue at the very end. A friendly nod.
KM: Tell me a little about your writing process. Did you have a complete outline in mind before you started with the first chapter or did you write the first three chapters and then decide on the ending?
CR: Writing a novel was much different than writing my memoir. With my first book I had a very good sense of where I would start and how I would end. Those were written first and it was much more structured. Writing fiction is more creative, it ebbed and flowed. I did not ever have a complete outline in my head. After I got Claire through the funeral of her husband and onto dating I wasn't sure what would happen to her. If she'd find meaning in her life, or love, or both. Writing fiction is much like living life, you never know how and why one story begins and another ends. I learned to color outside the lines.
Learn more about Ms. Radziwill here.
To follow Ms. Radziwill on Twitter, go here @CaroleRadziwill