The best books about finding or losing love in old age

The Books I Picked & Why

Oh William!

By Elizabeth Strout

Book cover of Oh William!

Why this book?

The quiet, mesmerizing voice of Strout’s Lucy Barton tells of getting to know her first love truly and deeply long after their marriage has ended. The book accomplishes the difficult task of making the improbable seem believable. It affirms my use of unlikely events in my own stories, making fiction more like life. In my life as a dancer and now as a writer,  I am always moved by art that is not set apart, high on a pedestal, but takes place right in the middle of life’s messy events.


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The Friend

By Sigrid Nunez

Book cover of The Friend

Why this book?

A dear and lifetime friend commits suicide. Instead of a note, he bequeaths to the narrator a large and faithful new friend, this one four-legged and furry. I delight in how the narrator gets inside the emotional subtleties of this new relationship and then explores other loves of people for their pets. A delicious metafictional spin to the end of this realistic tale (no spoilers here!) made me go back and read it from the beginning again.


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Through the Shadowlands: The Love Story of C. S. Lewis and Joy Davidman

By Brian Sibley

Book cover of Through the Shadowlands: The Love Story of C. S. Lewis and Joy Davidman

Why this book?

As a Catholic convert myself, I have long been interested in the spiritual journeys of these two, a middle-aged, conservative English professor and a young divorcee with two sons. Actually, two unlikely loves play out in this non-fiction biography: first young Lewis with Mrs. Moore, thirty years his senior (who may or may not have been his lover), and much later Joy, a Jewish convert to Christianity and former communist. Her death, just four years after their marriage, is mourned in Lewis’ own book, A Grief Observed, the only book I found comforting after my husband died. 


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Love Medicine

By Louise Erdrich

Book cover of Love Medicine

Why this book?

My parents were anthropologists who took me as a pre-teen to visit the pueblos of the southwest. There we attended ritual dances, and I was deeply impressed by their devotion, beauty, and power. I incorporated those impressions into the modern dance I was studying and would continue to practice as my first career. Now as a writer I continue my interest in indigenous cultures, and I admire the way the Plains Ojibwe, as portrayed by Erdrich, expand the meaning of “medicine” beyond scientific facts. “Medicine” comes to mean love, the healing force that overcomes envy and anger in communities from the plains to the pueblos to families around the world, including my own.


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Falling in Love When You Thought You Were Through: A Love Story

By Jill Robinson, Stuart Shaw

Book cover of Falling in Love When You Thought You Were Through: A Love Story

Why this book?

This true story of love and lasting marriage in later life is told by the husband and wife in alternating first-person voices. Ingrained habits of social and personal life and relationships with both parents and children all create stumbling blocks as the two lovers strive to create a unified way of life. I admire this book for its frank and vivid presentation of the pitfalls that can threaten a union of two individuals who meet in late middle age, already well set on their paths. In its presentation of problems and solutions, this book offers the most “self-help” of these five recommendations.


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