Unremarried Widow describes the heart-rending love affair between the author and her military husband, Miles, who died in a horrific helicopter crash while serving overseas. It’s obviously a sad story, and Artis Henderson wisely chooses not to tell it in chronological order. Her narrative begins in the early days of their marriage, then lurches forward to the accident, then back to their meeting, and then even further back to an airplane crash that killed her father. This time travel illuminates the ways in which certain events are forever with us, shaping how we deal with what comes next—and how what comes next will, in turn, shape our perception of what happened before.
Henderson is a bright and ambitious young coed when she meets Miles in a bar. She longs to live abroad and become a writer, but instead she falls for Miles and follows him wherever the U.S. government sends him. She finds herself living on or near military bases, seeking temporary jobs that barely satisfy her. Time is simply something to fill until her lover returns. As a former Army wife myself, I was thoroughly convinced by Henderson’s description of military partnership. The military community can feel at once comforting and suffocating, especially for women, who are always on the sidelines.
When Miles finally does deploy, Henderson makes a break from on-post military life and moves back to Florida with her mom. While she finds a certain kind of rhythm there, in crucial ways she is unsupported when her worst fears become reality.
Henderson is an author unafraid to tackle big issues like love and identity, yet the book rarely feels heavy-handed because we arrive at these topics through her very personal story. Unremarried Widow is an unflinching, honest and raw book that will likely evoke a strong emotional reaction from the reader. It certainly did from me. If you like true love stories (even tragic ones) and good writing, give this book a try. Just be ready to break out the tissues.