Nora Webster (Toibin)

Like Emily, Alone, this is the story of a widow who is trying to find a way to keep living after the death of her well-liked husband. She has to re-cast her relationships with her small town, her neighbors, her family, and most importantly, herself. She has to find her voice as troubles – both personal and political – begin to force their way into her daily life. Her sons are struggling to adjust to life without their father. One daughter is becoming active in Ireland’s Troubles. Nora also has to find a way to reconcile herself with her past, including how she handled her relationship with her own mother.

The book meanders. Nora is a role for the likes of Judi Dench. But I was drawn in, lulled by the seeming success story as Nora re-asserts her place in the world. But her efforts are not without stumbles and missteps. She is an uncertain parent. She is stubborn. In other words, she is quite human. But Toibin brings her to life that with such success that when she has a dream (which I won’t spoil), it rivals (and I am not exaggerating here) Homer’s use of a dream in The Iliad in terms of its emotional impact.

And as much as the story meanders, when I turned the page to find it was over (curse those Reading Group Guides!), I was left wanting to know more. And so I closed the book and applauded yet another great book from Mr. Toibin.


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