All these pencil drawings were made in the weeks and months that followed my wife Joy’s sudden death. It was a way for me to hold onto her, our life together, and our memories. THE WIDOWER’S NOTEBOOK replicated about half of these drawings.


Penguin Random House 2018

Written with unexpected humor and great warmth, The Widower’s Notebook is a portrait of a marriage, an account of the complexities of finding oneself single again after losing your spouse, and a story of the enduring power of familial love.


“In this memoir, a novelist and artist contends with the sudden death of his wife. Santlofer adds new insights to the familiar genre of the grief memoir by exploring the ways in which men are expected to handle loss and sorrow. “ ‘Men do not write books about grief’ was something I heard a lot and even told myself,” he notes. Between tender recollections of his wife and attempts to return to a version of his routine, the author realizes that he has been culturally conditioned to divert his energy into pretending to be strong and moving on quickly, and he struggles to discuss his anguish openly, even with his daughter.”
The New Yorker

“In this sensitive memoir, a man wades through grief by remembering his marriage in intimate, devastating detail after his wife dies suddenly.”
Entertainment Weekly

“I’m not a fan of memoir, but Santlofer has taken the tragedy of his wife’s sudden death after a common medical procedure and, without sacrificing the lightness of being, unraveled the events and feelings from both before and after. A painter and writer, he’s assembled all his talents (the book includes sketches) to put himself and his experience on the page with an honesty that will keep you reading after the lifeguards have gone home.”
Publishers Weekly, Best Summer Reads 2018

“An expressive and poetic tribute to a wife and a marriage that died without warning.
Santlofer offers a man’s perspective on emotional topics… Santlofer considers what it means to be a single man again, the social expectations placed on him by well-meaning friends, and his push to see his wife’s unfinished writing reach publication. Also included are beautiful line drawings the author did that helped fill the hours as he slowly moved from one day to one month to one year and more past the death of Joy.

“Santlofer’s book is an affecting read and not entirely heavy, despite the subject matter … Santlofer’s book, which shines most brightly when it focuses on his grief for his wife, is not a pedagogical tool and does not advance our understanding of grief in an appreciable way. It is the testimony of Jonathan Santlofer about the loss of his beloved wife … Viewed in that more limited lens, the book has perhaps less literary or cultural merit, but it still offers a moving portrait of one widower with a notebook.”
Lit Hub Bookmarks: The Best Reviewed Books of the Week

“Jonathan Santlofer’s memoir, The Widower’s Notebook, tells his story of loss and recovery with honesty and humor. It’s the story of a marriage, a story of grief, and a story of holding on and letting go, told with sensitivity, honesty, and—atypical of memoirs about loss—humor. Kathryn Court, the president and publisher of Penguin Books, calls the memoir The Year of Magical Thinking from a man’s point of view.”
Publisher’s Weekly

“Nero Award winner whose debut novel, The Death Artist, was an international best seller and an artist whose works grace major collections (e.g., the Metropolitan Museum of Art), Santlofer writes about the shock of his wife’s sudden, unexpected death and his inability to admit his pain to anyone, including himself.”
The Library Journal

“Santlofer’s honesty, his focus on the moments that remind him of Joy and their life together, and his beautifully crafted, tender prose make for heartbreaking yet page-turning reading.”
Book Page

“When his wife, Joy, died in 2013, author and artist Jonathan Santlofer struggled to readjust and re-enter the land of the living. The notebook, this year’s The Year of Magical Thinking, is a chronicle of this long journey back. It’s beautiful and, naturally, heartbreaking; unexpectedly funny and brutally honest. Death, which will come for us all, is here stared squarely at. It makes for an uncomfortable but unforgettable encounter.

The Widower’s Notebook is a searing rendition of the complex relationship between men and grief—an intense despair that is too often starved for words. This chronicle of devastation is itself devastating, a deeply powerful and unflinchingly honest report of how painfully and strangely life continues in the wake of a sudden, tragic death.”
-Andrew Solomon, bestselling author of Far From the Tree

The Widower’s Notebook, Jonathan Santlofer’s searingly truthful chronicle of mortality, is, among its wonders, a book about the preciousness of life and love, rendered all the more heart-wrenching, and all the more vital, by a loss almost beyond imagining. It’s a true tragic beauty.”
-Michael Cunningham, Pulitzer prize winner and multi-award winning author of The Hours

“Deeply moving . . . beautifully written . . . It is such an achievement, like running uphill against a strong wind.”
—Joyce Carol Oates, National Book Award winning author

“Wrenching, heartbreaking, intense and emotional—but valuable, too: we’re all approaching the age where this will happen to us—or to others because of us—and understanding that it can be dealt with is consoling. I don’t know how Santlofer found the fortitude to write this, but I’m deeply grateful he did. I think the world is a better place with this book in it.”
–Lee Child, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Widower is stunning, harrowing, un-put-down-able…Jonathan Santlofer finds language that is immediate and intimate for the irreconcilable trauma of loss. Without pause he captures the shattered time that is grief—this book is fearless, brave for its humanity, honesty, love. Santlofer brings the reader into his heart, sharing all the things that one feels but dares not say aloud, all that one wants to know but can’t ask of themselves, of those around them, of their lost loved one. Widower is a harrowing story of—stopped time, a freeze frame capture of marriage, family and life.”
–A.M. Homes, award-winning author of May We Be Forgiven and The Mistresses’ Daughter

“As an extended meditation – not on grief but on grieving – it is direct, unadorned and humane. It is, as well, a rare thing, a portrait of a happy marriage.”
–Paul Theroux, award-winning and #1 New York Times bestselling author

“Jonathan Santlofer, with painful honesty, renders real grief in all its sprawl and inconsolable intensity.”
—Edmund White, award-winning author

The Widower’s Notebook is an intimate, honest, heart-wrenching, and at times even funny account of grieving as well as the memoir of long, satisfying, loving marriage. This is an important and welcome addition to the literature of loss and grief from the male point of view. I will be giving this “NOTEBOOK” to friends reeling from loss but also to old and new couples who need models of how to weather the many little deaths and losses that occur as they journey a life together. Santlofer has given us a brave, beautiful gift, heartfelt and invaluable.”
—Julia Alvarez, bestselling author of How the García Girls Lost Their Accents and Saving the World

“Jonathan Santlofer recounts with courage, candor, and sometimes wicked gallows humor how he went on living after the sudden death of his beloved wife, Joy. With no blueprint for mourning—especially for men—Santlofer conveys the isolating muddle of grieving, the awkwardness of some friends versus the absolute heroism of others, and the difficulty of parenting through loss. This story of the worst kind of anguish and the strongest bonds of love will break your heart and heal it back up again.”
—Bliss Broyard, award-winning author of One Drop: My Father’s Hidden Life – a Story of Race and Family Secrets

“There’s a miraculous paradox at the heart of this stunning book: Jonathan Santlofer is conveying what his late wife, Joy, was like in words and in drawings, and precisely what it’s like to be crazed with a grief that’s beyond words. A riveting memoir and an indelible portrait of a long and deeply good marriage.”
—Joan Wickersham, National Book Award winner and author of The Suicide Index

“A brave book! A truthful and poignant account of an unexpected death filled with wisdom about life and a man’s struggle to be allowed to grieve.”
—Sheila Kohler, author of Once We Were Sisters

“Jonathan Santlofer’s stunning The Widower’s Notebook raises all the blinds on immense and sudden loss, bringing light to all its dark corners. In so doing, he offers a deeply moving, often funny, always big-hearted portrait—not just of grief but of a long and rich marriage brought to vivid life, and of a mighty father-and-daughter relationship both tested and enduring. A true gift.”
—Megan Abbott, bestselling author of You Will Know Me and The Fever

“Jonathan Santlofer writes with a keen artist’s eye about the devastating whirlwind of grief after the unexpected death of his beloved wife, Joy. How refreshing to read such a deeply felt memoir by a man. Santlofer depicts the aftermath of his wife’s death with careful and evocative detail. I, too, mourn her loss even as I celebrate that such love, such partnership, existed at all.”
—Julie Barton, New York Times bestselling author of Dog Medicine

“…a quiet stunner of a memoir… the book never loses momentum, thanks in large part to his vivid writing… This is a tender, moving, and resonant account of how life continues whether one wants it to or not.”
Publisher’s Weekly Best Books

“His words carry with them the solemnity of death, love, and longing and a tinge of anger as he wrestles with the facts and struggles to determine what went wrong on that fateful day. Santlofer offers a man’s perspective on emotional topics, of feeling inadequate on multiple levels, of wanting to have been a better husband and his desire to be a better father to their only daughter.”
Kirkus Reviews

Mailing List Sign-up

Join here with your email to hear more about Jonathan Santlofer!

Sign me up!