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.
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.
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.