Rudolfo Anaya’s newest novel, The Old Man’s Love Story (The University of Oklahoma Press) is a book that will touch your heart because it feels so real – after all, it’s based on Anaya’s own experiences as a widower.
The book begins as the old man (no name is given) sees his wife dying after an illness. The grief is profound as he thinks about her everywhere he goes – including the grocery store.
“A flickering memory suddenly burned bright. His wife’s lovely breasts. Other memories came piling on him. Whenever he passed won the cereal aisle, tears filled his eyes. He would never again buy her favorite cereal.”
He tries to be active – going to a water aerobics class, eating dinner with friends and family, and even dating a high school friend who lost her husband. But the memories keep coming up as he deals with growing older. (“Old people know bathrooms are dangerous places.”) He thinks about their travels and the rooms she carved in his heart. At one point he tries to conjure up her spirit by placing her pictures in a circle.
“He couldn’t say the magic word and have her appear. He would never again hold her in his arms.”
The book, at 170 pages, is easy to read thanks to Anaya’s simple prose. I thought the book would be depressing, but it’s not. Anaya writes in a matter-of-fact tone that doesn’t sound self-pitying and many readers will be able to relate to his struggles.
I have one minor complaint about the book. The old man seems to idealize his wife – which is natural, but I would like to know if they had any arguments or is she did anything that annoyed him.
Still, The Old Man’s Love Story is a beautiful love story. Your heart aches for the old man, as he tries to live each day without his soulmate. You may wish you had a love like they did.
The New Mexico-based Anaya is best known for his 1972 classic, Bless Me Ultima, which was released as a movie earlier this year. He has written numerous children’s books and novels, including the Sonny Baca detective series and Randy Lopez Goes Home.
Source: I received a review copy from the publisher.
Another excellent book about a man dealing with the death of his wife, although in different circumstances, is Francisco Goldman’s 2011 novel Say Her Name.