Saturday, July 2, 2016

Widow's Walk by Kenneth Weene - a vignette in Irish-American experience

Greetings, commies!
Recently I have been on a journey of revisiting old books that moved me a few years ago. Some of them leave a different impression the second time around. You start seeings nuances that you missed the first time around. One of such books is Kenneth Weene's Widow's Walk, an exploration of Catholic guilt and sexual repression in the context of the Irish American experience, a contemplative social and spiritual etude.


Mary Flanagan, caught between her sense of religion and obligation on one hand, and her very human desire for love on the other, is in emotional limbo. When she meets Arnie Berger, who becomes both her lover and philosophic guide, Mary's world seems to be transformed.Changes also come for Mary's children, who have been trapped in their own dilemmas. Sean, a quadriplegic, is looking for a fulfilled life. Kathleen must cope with infertility and anger in her search for happiness. The lives of all three Flanagans are turned upside down by happiness and tragedy.

My thoughts:

The topics that Kenneth Weene explores in his novel "Widow's Walk" are challenging and perilous from a literary standpoint. In our increasingly secular world, the word "religious" is more and more frequently is followed by the word "fanatic". What once was regarded as mainstream behavior for a member of the Catholic faith is now frequently viewed as an archaic affectation. In light of current scandals, Catholicism often becomes material for sneers and criticism. It is very easy to turn a character who happens to be an observant Catholic into a caricature.

Kenneth Weene avoids falling into those inviting traps. His portrayal of Mary Flanagan is sympathetic and realistic. Weene's background in psychology is apparent throughout the novel, and his usage of the present tense in the narrative enhances the impression of the speaker being an objective yet sympathetic observer.

"Widow's Walk" is neither a feel-gooder or a tear-jerker, although it could have easily turned into one under the pen of a less skilled author. Infertile wives abandoned by their husbands, disabled Vietnam veterans - all those topics can be exploited and butchered by Lifetime Channel. The fact that Kenneth Weene can write about those issues without lapsing into sentimental genre testifies to his commendable literary skill. The book can be enjoyed by believers and unbelievers alike.

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