Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Current Widowhood: Myths and Realities

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Current Widowhood: Myths and Realities

Article excerpt

LOPATA, Helena Znaniecka, CURRENT WIDOWHOOD: Mths & Realities. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1996, 251 pp., $21.95 softcover.

Reviewed by: BESS A ROTHENBERG *

The issue of widowhood has traditionally been swept under the carpet by most academics having been deemed an uninteresting or unimportant field of study. For this reason Helena Znaniecka Lopata's book makes a significant contribution to a much neglected area of scholarship. Unfortunately, Lopata's attempt at a comprehensive discussion of widowhood often falls short of its mark by leaving many of the most provocative questions pertaining to widows unanswered.

In Current Widowhood: Myths & Realities, Lopata seeks to bring a symbolic interactionist perspective to a wide range of information on widowhood. In this pursuit, Lopata sets out to "analyze, organize, and present an extensive body of scholarly knowledge"(xiv). The author provides a review of the literature on such diverse topics as crosscultural and historical attitudes towards widows; friendship networks; romantic relationships; and the caregiving roles of women prior to their husband's passing. For this reason Current Widowhood functions best as a reference book on many of the issues related to widows' lives. If one is trying to find an abbreviated summary of all the scholarly work on widowhood, Lopata's book is a good resource.

On the other hand, if one is looking for a thought-provoking or in-depth discussion of these varied issues, Current Widowhood may not need one's expectations. What is most absent from Lopata's analysis is a strong unifying "story". That is, rather than allowing a powerful thesis to guide her discussion of available literature, Lopata lets the review of the literature stand on its own. The result is a somewhat disjointed and poorly integrated presentation.

In addition, many facets of widowhood seem to be overlooked or taken for granted by Lopata's discussion. Most notably, there does not appear to be any explanation for why the author chooses only to discuss widows--as opposed to male widowers. In fact, Lopata provides relatively little discussion of gendered differences of widowhood. …

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