Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 463
“The Widow” is a lyrical exploration of the secret magic of the individual when one is able to see it. The story begins by flatly stating that the morning Warren Boyd dropped dead, he was the only living person on his farm. The second paragraph just as flatly describes Warren’s wife, Ann, who has been dead for three years, hovering in the upstairs bedroom watching.
After this somewhat unsettling opening, Beth Lordan’s magically realistic fantasy then narrates the life of Warren and Ann, which is quite ordinary, except for those moments when Ann sees Warren transfigured by shimmering bubbles of light. The first time she sees Warren transformed, she is in the upstairs bedroom thinking about jelly when he walks out of the milk-house slowly and gracefully, as if he were walking under water. Tiny air bubbles, gleaming like glass pearls, cling to his body.
The second time Ann sees him illuminated, he does somersaults in the yard as she watches from the bedroom window. She does not see the magical transformation again the rest of the year, although she keeps watch for the miracle. Then, in a sudden tragedy, Susan, the couple’s five-year-old daughter, catches a cold and dies at the end of the summer, and they are stunned by the “simplicity” of her death. In the spring, Warren returns from a trip to town, and Ann sees him get out of the car with a soft brilliance around his body, like mist off a barn roof. He turns in slows circles on the gravel driveway and stands with his arms lifted to the sky.
Although Lordan describes only three transformations, Ann watches Warren transformed again and again, although never completely. When Ann dies suddenly of a stroke or heart attack at age seventy-one, she understands that the three wishes that everyone always talks about are not given out until the moment of death; her first wish is that she remain with Warren until his death, watching him, hoping that at the moment of his death she might understand what the splendor of his transformations means.
In the three years before Warren’s death, she sees his mysterious illumination a few more times and discovers that she sees the visions only when he goes hatless; however, the morning that he dies, one of his hats is firmly on his head. Ann waits by his body watching until she realizes that, without even knowing she was there, his own first wish was to go. Disappointed and feeling empty and alone, she starts back upstairs and, remembering how Warren shimmered that first time, the sweet smell of raspberry jelly cooking comes to her. She goes to the bedroom and stands by the open window and makes her second wish, for tears.