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The Widow's War    by Sally Gunning order for
Widow's War
by Sally Gunning
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2006 (2006)

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* * *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

With its realistic dialog and insightful looks into characters' thoughts, Sally Gunning's The Widow's War will win your praise. Set in the 1700s - when human rights were just beginning to be discussed and when widows' rights were practically nil - this story provides a lively look at the life and times of those living in fishing villages along the Massachusetts coast.

Since Lydia Berry has always had strength of character and a pretty glib tongue, it was to be predicted that she would turn difficult after her husband drowned in a fishing accident. As she herself says, 'a lone woman does not turn overnight into a witless fool.' In 1761 Massachusetts a widow was legally entitled to life use (not ownership) of only one-third of her husband's real estate (dower right). When it comes time for Lyddie to sign papers that release her from that right, she refuses to do so, setting everyone in an uproar. How she manages her self-sought freedom and deals with all the men around her - her son-in-law, her lawyer and her neighbor - makes for a very interesting story, and along the way we learn many things about race, gender and class dynamics in that time.

Although we have to wonder whatever happened to Lyddie's parents or possible siblings, it doesn't affect our enjoyment of the story. We do have to admire the way Gunning writes dialog. This is so difficult in historical fiction. It's usually either too authentic and therefore quite difficult to understand or too modern and therefore out of place. To me, Gunning gets it just right, and it is a joy to read. Even the interior monologues seem apt for the characters. By all means, read The Widow's War and find out how Lyddie manages to find her place despite all the obstacles along the way!

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