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January 24, 2018

Readers’ Advisory: Reawakening and Rediscovering Joy

Readers’ Advisory: Reawakening and Rediscovering Joy

By: Heidi Herald

You’ve probably heard of, and possibly read, A Man Called Ove, the unlikely international bestseller by Swedish author, Fredrik Backman, that rocketed him to the top of the bestseller lists.  This quirky novel tells the story of an unhappy man who does not want to go on living after the death of his wife;  and how he finds new meaning and happiness in his life.  This is not the first or the last in what seems to be a popular take on the rebirth story archetype — an older man (often a widower) who has lost his sense of purpose, regains it by forging new and unlikely friendships, rejoining his community, and rediscovering joy.

I just finished reading bestselling author, Elizabeth Berg’s heartwarming new novel, The Story of Arthur Truluv, which follows this same storyline.  Arthur, a recent widower, spends every afternoon at the cemetery—eating lunch with his deceased wife and visiting the graves of people he has never met.  Through the course of the novel, he develops new friendships and forms deep bonds that bring joy and a renewed sense of belonging.  This is a quick, optimistic read that will brighten your day.

Perhaps the most timeless and extreme example of this story is that of Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.  Although Scrooge is not a widower, he is an unhappy and despicable man who, upon encountering the ghost of his deceased partner Marley and others, gains perspective and a new beginning.

If this plot sounds interesting, there is quite a selection of novels in recent years.  You might try one of the following novels:

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand:  a novel by Helen Simonson
The Widower’s Tale by Julia Glass
The Unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

If you prefer to read about an older woman finding her way, try:

The Little French Bistro by Nina George
This is your life, Harriet Chance! By Jonathan Evison
Etta and Otto and Russell and James: a novel by Emma Hooper
Goldberg Variations: a novel by Susan Isaacs
Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney

If you are looking for a movie in this vein, try:

A Man Called Ove (Swedish Film)
About Schmidt (Jack Nicholson)
As Good as it Gets (Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, Greg Kinnear)
Gran Torino (Clint Eastwood)