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The Widow Nash
Cover of The Widow Nash
The Widow Nash
A Novel
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"A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
It is New York, 1904, and Dulcy Remfrey, despite an idiosyncratic, traveling childhood, faces the predictable life of a woman of the time. All that changes when her eccentric father returns from his expedition to Africa without any of the proceeds from the sale of a gold mine. It seems he's lost his mind along with the money, and Dulcy's obsessive ex-fiancé (and her father's business partner) insists she come to Seattle to decipher her father's cryptic notebooks, which may hold clues to the missing funds. When her father dies unexpectedly, taking the truth with him, Dulcy looks at her future, finds it unbearable, and somewhere in the northern Rockies disappears from the train bringing her father's body home.
Is it possible to disappear from your old life and create another? Dulcy travels the West reading stories about her own death and finds a small Montana town where she's reborn as Mrs. Nash, a wealthy young widow, free from the burden of family. But her old life won't let go so easily, and soon her ex-fiancé is on her trail, threatening the new life she is so eager to create.
The Widow Nash is a riveting narrative, filled with a colorful cast of characters, timeless themes, and great set pieces. Europe in summer. New York in fall. Africa in winter. And the lively, unforgettable town of Livingston, Montana. This is a book that surprises with its twists and turns, a ribald sensibility, and rich historical details. And in Dulcy, Jamie Harrison has created an indelible heroine sure to capture the hearts of readers everywhere.
"A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
It is New York, 1904, and Dulcy Remfrey, despite an idiosyncratic, traveling childhood, faces the predictable life of a woman of the time. All that changes when her eccentric father returns from his expedition to Africa without any of the proceeds from the sale of a gold mine. It seems he's lost his mind along with the money, and Dulcy's obsessive ex-fiancé (and her father's business partner) insists she come to Seattle to decipher her father's cryptic notebooks, which may hold clues to the missing funds. When her father dies unexpectedly, taking the truth with him, Dulcy looks at her future, finds it unbearable, and somewhere in the northern Rockies disappears from the train bringing her father's body home.
Is it possible to disappear from your old life and create another? Dulcy travels the West reading stories about her own death and finds a small Montana town where she's reborn as Mrs. Nash, a wealthy young widow, free from the burden of family. But her old life won't let go so easily, and soon her ex-fiancé is on her trail, threatening the new life she is so eager to create.
The Widow Nash is a riveting narrative, filled with a colorful cast of characters, timeless themes, and great set pieces. Europe in summer. New York in fall. Africa in winter. And the lively, unforgettable town of Livingston, Montana. This is a book that surprises with its twists and turns, a ribald sensibility, and rich historical details. And in Dulcy, Jamie Harrison has created an indelible heroine sure to capture the hearts of readers everywhere.
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Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from April 24, 2017
    Debut novelist Harrison paints a lovely and memorable portrait of a desperate woman’s flight to a new life. In late 1904, Leda Cordelia Dulcinea Remfrey has been summoned to Seattle to attend to her dying syphilitic father, Walton. Dulcy must go, even though the summons comes from her father’s business partner and her ex-fiancé, Victor Maslingen, a man of violent rages who raped her. She is Victor’s only hope to find out what the increasingly deranged Walton has done with the profits of the sale of some African mines, money that Victor needs. After Walton’s death, as Dulcy and her sister, Carrie, travel back East to bury their father, Dulcy makes her way from the train to begin a new life in Livingston, Mont., as the Widow Maria Nash. Livingston is not without its own violence and drama, but it promises the safety of anonymity and possibly even real love. Harrison’s lead is a strong and clever woman who is easy to admire, while the rest of the heroes, villains, and ambiguous sorts are as vividly drawn as the raw and terrible scenery of Montana. Readers will treasure Harrison’s rich characterization and sharp turns of phrase.

  • Kirkus

    April 1, 2017
    A literary turn from an author known for mysteries (Blue Deer Thaw, 2000, etc.).Dulcy Remfrey is returning from a party when she gets a phone call. Phone calls aren't exactly common in 1904, so she assumes the worst: her father's dead. As it happens, he's not, but neither is he well, and it seems that he has misplaced a very large sum of money. His business partner, Victor--also, once upon a time, Dulcy's fiance--wants her to leave New York immediately and head for Seattle, hopeful that she might tease the truth of the missing fortune from her father's syphilis-addled brain. Victor, a man with violent tendencies, is dismayed both by the prospect of being ruined--Walton was supposed to be returning from Africa with the proceeds from selling several mines--and the presence of the woman who jilted him. When Walton dies before anyone can figure out what's happened to Victor's money, Dulcy decides that her only option is to disappear. Thus, Dulcy Remfrey turns herself into the young widow Mrs. Nash. This baroque setup is nicely balanced by Harrison's prose; the narrative voice here is restrained, with just a hint of quiet irony. And there's the fact that, as fantastical as the scenario might seem, Walton Remfrey is an entirely believable Gilded Age figure: a mining magnate who got his start digging copper as an orphan in Cornwall, a lowborn man who built an empire with hard labor, constant hustle, and a lack of regard for ethics. He's a raconteur and a libertine as much as he is an engineer and entrepreneur. Indeed, how readers react to this novel depends in large part on how beguiling they find Walton. While this is ostensibly Dulcy's tale, she is trapped in a Seattle apartment with her dying father--not to mention the volatile Victor--for almost a third of the book, and, even after he dies, the story of her reinvention is, again and again, interrupted by vignettes from her travels with her father. Some readers will enjoy these picaresque episodes, while those who require narrative momentum will likely find them distracting. Thoughtful, richly written historical fiction.

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    May 1, 2017

    For years, Dulcy Remfrey accompanied her father, Walton, on worldwide trips as he invested in mines and sought treatments for his syphilis. But in 1904, when Walton returns from an African expedition, his mind gone, Victor Maslingen, his business partner and Dulcy's ex-fiance, summons her to Seattle. He's convinced that Dulcy can decipher Walton's cryptic notebooks to learn what happened to profits from a gold mine, but pages with dates and victim statistics from earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, odd scientific theories, and bawdy poetry yield no answers. After her father's death, Dulcy disappears during a train journey taking his body back East. Leaving behind clues suggesting she committed suicide in order to escape Victor's marriage plans, Dulcy reinvents herself as a wealthy widow in a remote Montana town But she discovers that the residents of Livingston have their own dark secrets and that her past may catch up with her. Is the train passenger who arrives in town Victor's spy or Dulcy's chance for happiness? Multiple characters swirl through the novel, rushing from crisis to crisis. VERDICT Readers prizing action above all may appreciate this Western saga by the daughter of author Jim Harrison (who also pens the "Blue Deer" mysteries), but those bothered by loose ends and minimal character development will be disappointed--Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State Univ. Lib., Mankato

    Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • The New York Times Book Review "This novel from the daughter of Jim Harrison features a character set loose to wander the American West at the turn of the 20th century, a woman whose early experiences seem drawn from the worldly peregrinations of the era of Henry James. Sweeping and richly hued . . . Harrison has rendered her imagined world anachronistically, but Henry James might still have approved."
  • Nancy Pearl, Morning Edition, NPR "What keeps you reading is not just the quality of the writing, which is just absolutely wonderful, but also to find out: Is [Dulcy] going to [remake herself]? Can this be successful? Or is she going to be found out?"
  • Entertainment Weekly "This gorgeously written historical novel follows Dulcy, a young woman in 1904 who attempts to flee her late father's business problems--and her violent's ex-fiance's grasp--by traveling west and posing as a wealthy widow."
  • Publishers Weekly, Starred and Boxed Review "Debut novelist Harrison paints a lovely and memorable portrait of a desperate woman's flight to a new life . . . Harrison's lead is a strong and clever woman who is easy to admire, while the rest of the heroes, villains, and ambiguous sorts are as vividly drawn as the raw and terrible scenery of Montana. Readers will treasure Harrison's rich characterization and sharp turns of phrase."
  • Kirkus Reviews "When Walton dies before anyone can figure out what's happened to Victor's money, Dulcy decides that her only option is to disappear. Thus, Dulcy Remfrey turns herself into the young widow Mrs. Nash. This baroque setup is nicely balanced by Harrison's prose; the narrative voice here is restrained, with just a hint of quiet irony. And there's the fact that, as fantastical as the scenario might seem, Walton Remfrey is an entirely believable Gilded Age figure...Thoughtful, richly written historical fiction"
  • Library Journal "Readers prizing action above all may appreciate this Western saga by the daughter of author Jim Harrison."
  • Nancy Pearl, librarian and author of the Book Lust series "I loved The Widow Nash. It was one of those books that, when I read the first page, I could barely put it down to do anything else."
  • Historical Novel Society "This is a rich and interesting story about a young woman in America in the early 20th century who takes her life in her own hands and makes the decision to choose herself rather than succumbing to what is expected of her . . . I cannot imagine a reader who wouldn't be entranced by her story."
  • Colum McCann, winner of the National Book Award for Let The Great World Spin "With The Widow Nash, Jamie Harrison breathes fresh life into a fascinating period of American history. Indeed, the past has not passed. An adventurous, ambitious, inventive novel by a writer to relish."
  • Carl Hiaasen, New York Times bestselling author of Razor Girl "This deliciously ambitious novel delivers one memorable character after another. None is more magnetic than the 'Widow Nash' herself, a fabulous heroine and irresistible travel companion. Jamie Harrison is a clever, gifted writer, and this shining book is flat-out terrific."
  • Karen E. Bender, author of Refund, a Finalist for the National Book Award "With Technicolor, vibrant prose, Jamie Harrison's novel The Widow Nash re-invents the Western from a feminist perspective; from the first page, the fierce Dulcy brings the reader into her unforgettable world. A novel as wildly original and memorable as the West itself."
  • Malcolm Brooks, author of Painted Horses "If an Edith Wharton heroine had decided to ditch the bustles and the propriety and simply lit out for a fresh start in the Territories, she might have called herself The Widow Nash. Jamie Harrison has turned her formidable talents to breathing life into just such a creature, with astonishing results. Not only do we get a pitch-perfect evocation of a prior time, but a subtle reworking of America's great central myth--and its inheritor, Dulcy Remfrey, is so well rendered as to...
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