The Fun Widow's Book Tour: A Novel
A fortysomething, midlist novelist sees her husband off to work one morning. By evening, he is in a coma; a few days later, he is dead, leaving her with two young sons. As a way to process her grief, the widow decides to write a book about her husband and her pain.
In the plotline of The Fun Widow’s Book Tour, the novelist-widow, Mia Macher, writes a memoir. In real life, award-winning novelist Zoe Fishman turned her tragically similar experience into this novel about Mia writing a book about her experience.
Those intertwined roots are only part of this book’s complicated personality. In its breezy style and focus on women’s friendships, it is partly chick lit (although Mia angrily rejects that label when a friend’s husband pins it on her own work). The novel also interweaves a Covid overhang, family dynamics, musings on fate, and a gentle satire of the publishing industry.
“People said all the time to Mia, You can’t make this up! when she was cognizant enough to tell them about the last ten years of her life and Mia always thought, Yes, you can make it up, but I wouldn’t unless I really hated my protagonist.”
Of course, much of the plot and many of the characters of this novel are indeed “made up.” The fictional Mia’s longtime best friends—George, Rachel, and Chelsea—organize a book tour for her in their hometowns of San Francisco, Chicago, and Atlanta, respectively, after her publisher refuses to sponsor more than a sliver of publicity. (That description of publishers is definitely nonfiction.) Covid unexpectedly shreds the itinerary, and suddenly Mia finds herself driving home to New Jersey from Atlanta in a car with Judy, the stepmother she despises.
If George’s, Rachel’s, and Chelsea’s motivation for the tour is to boost Mia’s spirits along with her book sales, Mia sees the excursion as an opportunity to help her friends rethink their struggling parental and romantic lives.
Unfortunately, just like the book tour, this novel is burdened with more expectations than it can fulfill. George’s and Chelsea’s problems are barely flicked at, though Rachel gets a bit more ink. Covid pops in and out as an occasional annoyance, not the terrifying shadow it actually was for the first year until vaccines became generally available. The Judy story doesn’t really show up until the last 20 pages, and then it’s quickly settled. What about Mia’s panic that her novel will be a flop? After one discouraging review and two so-so audiences, that topic peters out.
The book’s strongest parts are Mia’s heartfelt grief over the loss of her husband and her intense love of writing. As she puts it, “The impossibility of turning her idea into four hundred pages was possible. And if that was possible, then anything was possible.”