Unremarried Widow: A Memoir, by Artis Henderson. Simon & Schuster. 256 pages. Hardcover $25.00.
Of all the memoirs I’ve read since becoming a weekly book reviewer in 2006, this brilliant achievement is rivaled only by Kelle Groom’s “I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl” (2011). Though the books share a publisher and a theme of recovery, the strength of each is ultimately its uniqueness. Both memoirs are devastating, healing, and uplifting.
Unremarried Widow relates the unexpected grand passion of a fairly reserved young woman for a man whose type she would never have expected to cherish. Artis had graduated from the Wharton School of Business, spent a year in Paris, dabbled with idea of becoming a writer, and worked for a U. S. senator back home in Florida. Miles Henderson, a handsome, outgoing outdoorsman – the very picture of a Texas ranch hand – was an Army helicopter pilot. They meet in a Tallahassee bar. It doesn’t take long.
These very different people, linked by some unfathomable core connection, make room for each other’s enthusiasms. It seems easy for them to share experiences. But all is not well. Artis finds little room for herself in the role of army wife. She doesn’t fit in with the other women. She makes a few friendships, but some desires and needs of the pre-Miles Artis are undernourished. Spiritually, she’s wasting away.
Too soon, Artis becomes a grieving widow – just as her mother had become twenty years earlier when Artis was a young child.
Incredibly, Artis had lost her father to a plane crash and was raised by a mother who severely suppressed her grief, ridding their home of signs that her husband had ever lived. We wonder what lessons Artis learned from her mother’s behavior, which involved refusing to talk about that tragic loss. How did this affect the mother-daughter relationship? What kind of comfort, if any, can her mother provide?
Who can judge another’s manner of grieving, or not grieving?
The heart of the book is the author’s harrowing portrait of her grieving self. Loneliness, anger, and despair are only a few of the emotions processed in the wake of her husband’s demise. Ms. Henderson describes with unvarnished honesty the tides of greater and lesser hurt that buffeted her. . . .
To read the entire review as it appears in the April 23, 2014 Fort Myers Florida Weekly, the April 24 Bonita Springs and Naples editions, and the May 1 Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte edition, click here: Florida Weekly – Henderson.