Widow’s Walk is a story of faith and its effects on already flawed characters. Set in Boston in the 1980s, it is the story of Mary Flanagan and her children, Sean and Kathleen. Mary’s husband, Sean, Sr., died at the wheel of his M.T.A. bus. Her son, Sean, Jr. is a quadriplegic, injured on his way to a brothel in Vietnam; Kathleen, divorced and unable to have children, works and lives at a hospice that primarily serves AIDS patients; there she lives a mechanistically faithful life, but one devoid of belief. This unhappy family structure is erected on the bedrock stoicism of Mary’s Irish Catholicism. It is that faith which is tested, changed, and strangely reaffirmed over the course of the tale.
Two events upend Mary’s world. The first is her friend, Lois’s, move to Florida. The second is Sean’s decision to seek rehabilitation in a center in Minnesota – a decision initiated by Jem, a home health aide whose own life reflects a faith of care and service.
Mary finds herself looking for new meaning and direction in her life. In the process she meets two unexpected people, Arnie Berger, a college professor, an agnostic or perhaps deistic Jew, and love interest, and Pat Michaels, a minister, whose view of a joyous faith is much at odds with Mary’s rigid theology. She also moves into a housing share and becomes friends with Amelia Callaghan, the misanthropic house owner.
Sean’s life, too, is dramatically changed because he falls in love with and marries one of the aides at the rehab center. He returns to Boston married, employed and expecting their first child.
Given the remarkable changes in her mother’s and brother’s lives and influenced by Max, one of her dying patients and a man whose story and faith are powerful and unique, Kathleen also seeks love. She meets Danny, a young man tied to his overprotective mother and unable to deal with his own feelings of inadequacy.
Sadly, Kathleen and Danny’s relationship ends in disaster, rape, and abuse. Danny flees. In her own way, Kathleen does too; she becomes catatonic and dependent.
Mary unable to come to terms with her sense of guilt and responsibility towards her daughter – is powerless to keep those feelings from coming between her and Arnie.
In the end, Mary can not live with her unhappiness and dies of “the pain of her soul,” a diagnosis provided by the caregiver, Jem, who had originally encouraged Sean to make his momentous move. Mary’s death creates a strange psychological space in which Kathleen takes on her mother’s place in the world.
Below, I have included an excerpt from Widow's Walk. After reading, you may wish to go to one of the following and check out other stops Kenneth has made or will make this month. There's a lot of great stuff out there folks!
September 2 - Writers in the Sky http://yvonneperry.blogspot.com/2009/09/widows-walk-by-kenneth-weene.html – Interview
September 4 – Ascroft, eh? http://dianneascroft.wordpress.com/2009/09/04/widows-walk-by-kenneth-weene/ - Guest Post and Excerpt
September 7 – New Book Review http://thenewbookreview.blogspot.com/2009/09/religious-fiction-from-kenneth-weene.html - Review
September 9 – Astrology for Everyday-One Writer's Passion http://gooddaysnodays.blogspot.com/2009/09/blog-review-widows-walk.html - Review
September 11 – Katie Hines – Walking on Water - http://katiehines.blogspot.com/2009/09/meet-christian-author-kenneth-weene.html - Interview
September 14 - Xanga blog http://cce613.xanga.com/711963936/book-promo-widows-walk-by-ken-weene/ – Excerpt
September 16 – Marilyn's Musings http://marilynmeredith.blogspot.com/2009/09/widows-walk-by-ken-weene.html- Review
September 18 – The Nurse Mommy - http://www.thenursemommy.com/2009/09/guest-posting-about-faith-from-author.html - Guest PostSeptember 21 – The Book Connection http://thebookconnectionccm.blogspot.com/2009/09/arnie-berger-from-widows-walk-by-ken.html - Guest Post
September 28 – Stories that Read You http://stevenbradley.blogspot.com/
September 29 – Across the Pond Blog Talk Radio http://www.blogtalkradio.com/Across-the-
Pond - 6:30 pm - Interview – The call in number is (347) 237-5398
Take the time to leave comments along the way and you'll be entered in a drawing with a chance to win two different prizes.
The first giveaway is Kenneth Weene's poetry book which will go to a few different commenters.
The second giveaway is a copy of his book Widow's Walk to one lucky commenter
Finally, you can visit Kenneth's website at: http://widows-walk.webs.com/
Now, onto the excerpt:
Mary leaves Ireland
Saint Margaret’s is quiet this morning. It is cold. Mary holds her coat tight. Still, she feels comfort or at least the expectation of comfort to come. Mary has never understood why she is so often the only parishioner waiting for the confessional. She often wonders how so many can take The Host on Sunday without first cleansing their souls. She doesn’t believe for a moment that she is the only sinner in the parish – certainly not when it is so terribly easy to sin. A slip of the tongue, a wrong thought: these are sins too easily committed.
She waits patiently. She sits carefully erect in the pew closest to the confessional. She waits for Father Frank to enter his side. Then kneeling to cross herself as she traverses the aisle of the church, Mary slides into the penitential seat. “Ferther, forgive me for I have sinned.”
Father Frank, wanting to make the elderly woman content, prescribes two Our Fathers and Four Hail Marys. He knows that Mary will triple each of those requirements and perhaps add a few of her own. In her hard faith she knows that Father Frank is too tenderhearted, especially when the older women of the congregation, like herself, are involved. It would never do to take one’s penance too lightly. Purgatory looms too close at hand.
For Mary Flanagan growing up in Dublin, the realities of Purgatory and Hell were far more real than that of Heaven. Heaven is reserved for saints! On that point Mary is completely sure. It is not a question of her avoiding Purgatory. No, it is a question of how many eternities she must spend there before she might see the face of God. In her heart she only hopes that she might see Him before He has called the angels down to end this earthly creation. In her devotion she believes that glimpse would be enough, just as her faith in its possibility is enough to carry her through the trials of life.
As a little girl Mary had been preoccupied with the hereafter. While other youngsters talked of this boy or that, Mary would sit by herself, her startlingly beautiful blue eyes half closed behind the thick lenses of her glasses, and say the Rosary, counting the beads with a feeling that none of the nuns who had taught her could ever match.
It had been assumed that Mary would enter the convent herself. Her friends were always teasing her and calling her Sister. But Mary had surprised them all.
It was not a lack of vocation that had lead to her boarding the boat for New York. She had wanted to be a nun – oh yes, she had heard the call. But a letter of supplication had come to her parents from her uncle in Boston. Written in stiff square letter and offering no concern for their or her wellbeing, he had made his request.
He had need of help with his business. Without extra hands, which Mary could offer, he would soon be out on the street. It was a candy and soda shop offering sweets and a place to sit and read the papers. His wife’s arthritis had gradually worsened. She could no longer wait on the customers or clean the counter and tables. Since they had no children, it was natural enough for him to ask his brother to send Mary, the oldest and most responsible of the girl children, to help.
Mary had gone, unhappily but willingly – not changing her love for God or her desire for the convent but accepting – ah yes, accepting – her lot in life as a sure sign of God’s eternal will. If it was to America that God would lead her, then it was to America she would go – only stopping at Saint Timothy’s long enough to light a candle and pray for Him to hold her in His hand on the long journey across the perilous seas.
Besides her faith, Mary had not taken much with her from Ireland. In truth, there was little else to take. The Rileys were not a wealthy family. Jack, her father, was one of its least successful members. Her uncle had sent the passage money – steerage of course – and a train ticket from New York to Boston. He had included but a few dollars for spending, far less than she would need. Her belongings fit into a small suitcase, found at a thrift and secured with rope. With all her worldly possessions so tied together and her faith firmly in her heart, young Mary Riley had set sail.