The Widow's Season

Let her take him for her keeper and spy, not only of her deeds, but also of her conscience....And let her not behave herself, so that his soul has cause to be angry with her, and take vengeance on her ungraciousness.

On the proper behavior of a widow toward her husband. Juan Luis Vives, De Institutione Feminae Christianae, dedicated to Catherine of Aragon in 1523

Chapter 1

    Sarah McConnell’s husband had been dead three months when she saw him in the grocery store. He was standing at the end of the seasonal aisle, contemplating a display of plastic pumpkins, when, for one brief moment, he lifted his head and looked into her eyes. There, in his unaltered face, she glimpsed such an odd mixture of longing and indecision that her first instinct was to rush toward him, to fold her body within that unforgettable green flannel shirt. But she was swept by a wave of tingling nerves and pounding blood so cold, her only response was mute paralysis. In the seconds it took to resume her breathing, he had turned the corner at the aisle’s end and was gone.

    She heard the broken cry before she recognized it as her own voice, yelling “David! Wait!” And then she was running after him, her cart abandoned, her pocketbook banging against her thigh.

    When she reached the end of the aisle and turned left, she saw nothing but a wall of milk and eggs, mingled with the faces of wary strangers. Immediately she began checking aisle after aisle, finding nothing and nothing and again, nothing. She sprinted to the front of the store and searched in the opposite direction, scanning aisles to her left, check-out lines to her right. Never had the rows of paper towels, canned fruit and cereal boxes seemed so garish, their cartoon logos blurring with her fractured thoughts.

    Rushing out to the parking lot, she yelled David’s name again. But among the handful of people unlocking their cars and loading their trunks, there were no dark-haired, middle-aged men in blue jeans and green flannel.

    By the time she had reentered the store, the manager was coming down from his elevated cubicle. His bland smile seemed to assure that he had seen all this before. A mother obviously panicked over a missing child. With a small team of searchers he would eventually find the errant preschooler gazing at the lobster tank, or hiding behind a helium canister.

    “You’ve lost someone?”

    The words lingered in Sarah’s mind. “Yes.” She had lost someone.

    “What does he look like?”

    Her dark eyes kept scanning the store. She had a vague notion that if she stayed near the door she might block David’s exit.

    “He was wearing his Yankees baseball cap.”

    “What’s his name?”

    “David.”

    “How old is he?”

    “Forty-three.”

    The manager’s smile sagged. “Forty-three?”

    Sarah stopped to examine the man. She noted his solid black tie, his red white and blue nametag, and his fragile patience.

    “He’s my husband.”

    It was almost comical, how quickly the kindness fled from the man’s face. In his eyes she was no longer an endearing young mother, in need of a steady arm. She was just another noisy wacko, a middle-aged woman with a wild expression, whose brown hair was falling from its silver clips.

    “Do you want me to page him?” The words were more dismissive than curious. Already the manager’s thoughts were returning to his computer screen.

    Sarah imagined herself waiting at the customer service counter while a stranger paged her dead husband, and gradually the hysteria began to seep away. Why had she come here? What did she want from this place?

    “Never mind.” Her only thought was to escape to the quiet safety of her home.

    Stepping again into the parking lot, she noticed how pale the sky had become. The maple leaves, so bright with fire two weeks before, were crumpled and falling like ash. As she crossed the pavement, the October wind bit through the links of her sweater.

    Inside her old Volvo wagon, she shut the door, strapped on her seatbelt, and placed the key into the ignition. Then she sat back, closed her eyes, and quietly, very quietly, she wept.

© 2009 by Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Reviews

The Widow’s Season is not only a well-written piece of dramatic fiction, but a mystery and a romance.… questions linger like specters through this emotional novel, which is full of twists and turns, until the very last page..”  -The Las Vegas Review-Journal

"In The Widow's Season, Brodie draws on literary traditions, but hides the academic stuff under the flow of smart dialogue and sharp detail. This is a work of craft and imagination."
-Roanoke Times

This is a haunting novel by a first-time novelist but an experienced writer with a clear voice and a taste for the mysteries of life, death, and delusion.... The Widow's Season is far more than what it seems to be at first - a straightforward story of a woman getting used to a crushing loss. It's smarter, slyer, and more unconventional than that. It's haunting -- and haunted too. - Elizabeth Benedict, Author of The Practice of Deceit

In THE WIDOW'S SEASON, Laura Brodie confronts all the twists and turns of grief and loss, love and marriage, and the human heart with honesty, humor, and great intelligence. This novel is spellbinding, right up to its surprising and poignant final page. - Ann Hood, Author of The Knitting Circle

Brodie expertly walks the line between reality and fantasy, life and death, heartache and love, leaving readers hoping for the best and prepared for the worst-without ever really knowing the truth-until the final five pages. - Publisher's Weekly