Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 465
Praisesong for the Widow was published in 1983 by Macarthur Fellow Paule Marshall. The novel follows Avey Johnson, a widow from White Plains, New York. Avey is the mother of three girls, who (with the exception of one) support their mother taking a cruise in order to distract herself and recover from their father's death several years ago.
In one of the novel's many vivid flashbacks, Avey remembers her husband's funeral as follows:
That final day she had simply stood, her gaze off to one side, waiting for the funeral director stationed next to her to lead her away after the proper interval. Then, just as she felt his slight pressure on her arm, signaling that it was time, she had gathered together her courage and glanced down. And there it had been, as she had feared, staring up at her from Jerome Johnson's sealed face: that other face with the tight, joyless look which she had surprised from time to time over the years. Jerome Johnson was dead, but it was still alive; in the midsts of his immutable silence, the sound of its mirthless, triumphant laughter could be heard ringing through the high nave of the church (133).
This quote is one of the first in which the idea (prevalent in the novel) of two faces is made more palpable. This moment of remembrance is also a formative, if painful, moment in Avey's grief processing.
Avey decides that she needs to leave the cruise early. When taking refuge in a bar during a walk along the beach in Grenada, the shop owner convinces Avey to take a day trip to the small island of Carriacou with him and many others, on occasion of the annual rejuvenation rite and celebration of African heritage. While there, Avey is welcomed to participate in this act of ritual...
(The entire section contains 465 words.)
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