The Young Widower’s Handbook: A Novel by Tom McAllister, Algonquin Books, US $25.95, Pp 288, February 2017, ISBN 978-1616204747
Hunter Cady believed that meeting his future wife Kaitlyn was the greatest thing ever to happen to him. He thought he now had a purpose in his life. Although Kait is smart, fun, and one of a kind, she is somehow charmed by Hunter’s awkwardness and droll humor, and her love gives him reason to become a better person. Then the unexpected happens and Kait is gone. Hunter escapes reality in the only way he knows of: by running away. Hunter and Kait had always planned to travel, so he heads west from his Philadelphia home carrying Kait’s ashes. Hunter has no real plan in mind. He was swept into the adventures of fellow travelers on the road, among them was a renegade Renaissance Faire worker; a Midwest couple and Elvis, their pet parrot; an old man on an endless cross country journey in search of a wife who walked out on him many years before. Along the way are glimpses of Hunter and Kait’s lovely, flawed, very real marriage, and the strength it gives Hunter, even to face a future without it. And each encounter, in its own peculiar way, teaches him what it means to be a husband and what it takes to be a man.
The Young Widower’s Handbook explores the deeper meaning of love and loneliness. It tries to understand how love can make you more humane. It teaches you how to overcome the fears you have in love. It tells you how you can honor the memory of your wife.
Tom McAllister is the non-fiction editor of Barrelhouse Magazine, and co-host of the weekly podcast Book Fight! His short stories and essays have appeared in a number of places, including The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2015, Hobart, Unstuck, FiveChapters, Sundog Lit, Black Warrior Review, and The Collagist. His memoir, Bury Me in My Jersey was published in 2010. The Young Widower’s Handbook is his debut novel. He is a 2006 graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He is an Associate Professor in the English Department at Temple University and lives in New Jersey.