When I started to read Artis Henderson’s Un-Remarried Widow, I’d assumed I was reading a work of fiction. Intrigued by the title, I’d grabbed the galley at the Book Expo of American (BEA) a few weeks back almost as an afterthought. There wasn’t much information to preview, but the title somehow drew me in. As I continued with the interesting and easy to read narrative, I was awestruck by the too-real-to-be-fiction account of five year old A.J., her flight with her father in his single-engine Piper Cub, the plane’s mechanical failure during flight, and the crash landing. A.J. survived, but the aftermath for A.J. and for her mother was daunting.
As the pages continued to turn, the author later referred to the main character no longer as A.J., but as Artis. It was then that I realized Un-Remarried Widow wasn’t fiction or autobiographical fiction, but a memoir. (Actually, the book’s title is, in fact, Un-Remarried Widow: A Memoir, but in my defense, the words, “a memoir,” are written very, very small.)
Anyway, the phrase, un-remarried widow (URW) is a military designation for the wives of soldiers who are killed in action. Un-Remarried Widow is Artis Henderson’s heartbreaking tale of her romance with a Miles, a pilot just like dear old dad, Miles’s deployment to the Middle East, his death, and Artis’s life after the loss. It’s a pretty powerful story.
While Henderson’s writing contributes to the ease by which the pages turn, her story is the attraction. Henderson begins in 2004 before she met Miles as she speaks to "Psychic Suzanna" in Tallahassee, Florida. As psychics are (apparently) apt to do, Suzanna predicts with astonishing accuracy the unlikely path that Artis’s will take. From there, Henderson takes the reader on a journey through time. She travels back to her father’s death two decades earlier in the Piper Cub crash and back to the first decade of the of the millennium when Artis and Miles marry, Miles is deployed to the Middle East and is killed when the Apache helicopter he piloted crashes during a sand storm. Throughout, Henderson skillfully examines the ironies and parallels that occur in life, the devastating void left by the death of a loved one, and the ways that those who remain behind learn to cope.
While this is The Single Father’s Guide Blog, my instinct to pick up a copy of Un-Remarried Widow at BEA was a good one. The military aspect of the story appeals to men, while the romantic side will interest female readers. Particularly helpful for anyone who has experienced the loss of a loved one is Henderson’s description of coming to terms with Miles’s death and the decisions she made to create for herself a happy, fulfilled, and productive life.
Un-Remarried Widow ends as it began, with Henderson speaking to a psychic about her future. Just as she did when her life as a young adult was filled with promise and hope, she is once again at a starting point in her life. Henderson’s a little older and she’s a little wiser. She still holds her love for Miles with her, but she is once again encouraged by the prospect a new beginning.
Un-Remarried Widow will be available in stores in January 2014. I’ll be more than a little surprised if this not the choice for more than one high-profile book club and on several bestseller lists. PRE-ORDER Un-Remarried Widow: A Memoir HERE!