Jonathan Santlofer

The Widower’s Notebook

When his wife of four decades died suddenly five years ago, Jonathan Santlofer entered a landscape all of us will face sooner or later: the terrain of wrenching and heartbreaking loss. In his memoir published last month by Penguin Books, the artist-turned-novelist describes the days, months, and first few years after Joy’s death, and how he coped by keeping a diary of his interactions with a new and radically changed reality. In our interview, he talks about how the notebook kept him sane, how men and women handle grieving differently (and what the social expectations are of each sex), how friends responded to his newly solo status, and how drawing helped him preserve his memories and come to terms with his grief. His candid—and sometimes even humorous—recollections make for memorable reading and a wide-ranging conversation about love, loss, and the power of art.

Below are some of the drawings Santlofer made in graphite, after photos, between 2013 and 2017. They show, in order: the author and his wife as a young couple in Paris; Joy with their newborn daughter, Dorie; Santlofer with his adult daughter; Joy and Dorie; and Joy’s beloved cat, Lily, who finally accepted the author as a friend after Joy’s death.


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