Release date: February 7, 2017
My rating: 3 stars
The Short Of It:
A quirky, funny, sad novel that didn't live up to its potential.
The Long Of It:
Hunter Cady is just 29 when the love of his life, his wife Kait, dies unexpectedly, leaving him an all-too-young widower. He's kind of a lovable, bumbling loser to begin with, but Kait's death throws him into a tailspin of despair. He can't help but think of all the things she'll never get to do -- most especially travel the world, something they'd endlessly fantasized about and planned and hashed out for the future.
Aimless, adrift and grieving, Hunter spirits the urn full of Kait's ashes away from her (scary-crazy!) family and embarks on an epic road trip across the United States. I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the book -- Hunter's travels with Kait's urn and his reminisces about their romance and their life together. It was a bit wacky, a bit funny, a bit self-deprecating and a bit heartbreaking.
But after a charming, engrossing first half, the rest of the book fell flat for me and I struggled to finish. Eventually Hunter meets up with a just-out-of-college couple taking a trip along Route 66 with the girl's grandfather -- also grieving a lost wife -- and things went downhill from there. I really couldn't have cared less about the trio, and their adventures just didn't capture my interest like Hunter's solo travel in the first half did. And while the ending was relatively satisfying, it wasn't the big life-changer that the first half of the book felt like it was working up to.
That said, it was still a decent read. It's about the worthy themes of family, love, overcoming grief and getting your shit together -- with some commentary about our social media-obsessed culture thrown in for good measure. And I enjoyed getting to know Hunter and, through his remembrances, the wonderfully flawed Kait. "The Young Widower's Handbook" didn't blow me away, but it wouldn't be a travesty if it ended up in your pile of checkouts at the library.
*I received a free advance copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.