Barbara Barth follows up her delightful The Unfaithful Widow with her new book The Unfaithful Widow Ten Years Later: My Life with Dogs and Every Day Magic. In this biography, she describes the first ten years of widowhood, and how she creates a life for herself in the wake of the death of her husband.
Her life seems to be an uncooperative improv partner. As soon as she sets the scene, her life sabotages her ideas with injuries, more deaths, a six-pack of dogs, and other unexpected twists and turns. Barbara, however, is an improv pro, and she “yes, ands” that monster into a fantastically entertaining scenario full of life and laughter and hope. She finds her dream house, her pack, and her tribe. She misses her husband, she mourns her losses along the way, but she doesn’t let any of that stop her from moving forward.
At once moving and funny, The Unfaithful Widow is a book for survivors and for those of us who want to keep on surviving.
I had the great fortune of being able to ask Barbara some questions about the book and her process. Her answers are below.
This book encompasses the ten years after your last book left off. Was it written over the course of ten years, or was it written in retrospect after ten years had passed?
The stories in my book were pulled together from old blog posts over the years, tightened up to flow better, and newly written stories from the present. I love to write on blogs to be able to look back and remember feelings and events as they took place. So, when I decided to do the continuing memoir, I gathered all my old stories, an overwhelming task. It was a bit of a nightmare trying to coordinate everything until I came up with using each year as a book section. I wrote about my mother right after losing her in 2016 to deal with my feelings of loss once again. But her stories are sweet, not sad, and I swear she was toying with me from afar. My move and my new dogs were written also as they occurred. I seem to write things down as they happen, while I’m fresh in the moment.
How much do you think your ‘six-pack’ of dogs helped you fill the husband shaped hole in your life? Or were they more of a distraction? Have you ‘topped out’ at six?
I’ve always loved dogs. My husband thought one was enough, but we got up to two while he was alive. On my own it just seemed the thing to do, get all those dogs I always wanted. Freud could have a good time about the dogs, husband replacement or (lack of) children replacement? I just know they became my little family and having all those dogs made me very happy. They were bigger dogs, too. Filled up my bed. In February this year I brought in two smaller dogs, but after my fall they went back to the rescue group (run by my friend that brought me Rascal and April in Paris). I had seven and with a broken elbow on my right arm and a small fracture on my left wrist it was more than I could handle. Old dogs don’t stay long enough, and I lost Bray and Rascal this year. I’m down to four dogs, my seventy-five-pound Bertha and three Chihuahuas. I’d like to have more, but they are all older dogs and have settled into a routine that works for them. I don’t think I should shake that up just now.
You refer to Chloe as your alpha – where do you think you fit in the pack?
I am the leader of the pack. Chloe is the bossy one with the other dogs. She is also the town crier letting me know if a dog is misbehaving. Once she carried on so, I came from the kitchen to the living room (in the Decatur house) to find her dancing around Bertha as Bertha held my cell in her paws and tried to eat it. Chloe is in love at the moment with the Studly, so even though they are all fixed, I’ve had to add doggie chaperone to my title.
You seem to have chosen dogs over men to accompany you into the future – is that accurate?
Originally, I adopted my dogs without giving any thought to the impact they would have on my life. I’ve always loved dogs, and with no one to say “no” if I saw a dog I liked on petfinder.com, I adopted it. Five dogs in nine months between Spring of 2009 to January 2010. I had my old gal Foxy then, so they became the six-pack. As my dogs aged and I lost them to health issues I felt compelled to adopt more. The path I chose for my life was a creative one. I wanted to find something that grounded me on my own. Writing became that force. I try dating from time to time, but the dogs make it hard and I’m happier with the dogs than finding romance right now. I never plan on anything but take everything as it comes my way. So never say never to who or what will be in my future. I think that makes it all interesting!
Even though you don’t like to travel, there does seem to be a bit of wanderlust in you, though it takes other forms. How do you satisfy that part of you while staying in a small geographical area?
I enjoyed traveling when I was younger, but then the airports were not so crowded and air travel was easier. You know, in the dark ages of my youth. When my husband was alive, we’d visit his mother in North Carolina and mine in St. Augustine. We didn’t take big trips. I think that carried over into my present life. Some widows like to travel, I wanted to do something extraordinary, and for me that was writing. Adventure awaits any place at any moment, and I find a joy in discovering what excites me close by. I have so much I want to do, writing, getting back to painting again, and now becoming involved with the Monroe-Walton Center for the Arts, I wear myself out with possibilities. I’m also a nester and like being at home with the dogs at night. Of course, when I do think about visiting another town or another country, I don’t want to stay a week, but want to look at houses and dream about moving there. I have the movie Under the Tuscan Sun to thank for that!
Do you think your injuries have changed the trajectory of your life, or do you think they are just bumps along the road you would have taken anyway?
I can tell a difference in myself because of the hip issues and surgeries and then the fall I took in February that broke my elbow resulting in more surgery. It’s made me feel a bit vulnerable living alone. The worry about my dogs. The elbow event (or party I should call it since my house was filled with more people coming and going bringing fabulous food and helping me than I’ve ever experienced) was a freak accident. I’d stopped using my cane and now I’m using it as a safety precaution. I tripped on the threshold of a friend’s new house and fell straight forward. He may never recover I scared him so. See, a “he”. While I don’t have a beau, I do have a few male friends. I wish I walked better but I am out and about. It’s hard to keep me home. I do wonder if it’s time to get more physical therapy to strengthen my walking. Part of this is my responsibility to do better and take better care of myself. I’m working on it.
What writing project are you working on now?
I have a funny Christmas novella I want to complete. And a few fictional novels I’ve started. Perhaps I can focus on them now. My holy trinity of subject matter; widows, houses, and dogs. I write about widows because that is what I know more than being single and dating. I was a wild child when I was younger, had a six-year first marriage, then met “the one” in my mid-thirties. We were together for twenty-five years, living together for twenty and married for the last five. I like to write about strong women who re-discover themselves at an older age. Meryl Streep are you reading this? I kid I’m not looking to be on the New York Times best seller list, I want a film deal to ease me into the coming years comfortably. You know how all writers like to dream big!
To read more or to order the book, click here.
Lori B. Duff is an award-winning author who practices law on the side. Her latest book, “If You Did What I Asked in the First Place” was awarded the Gold Medal for humor in the Foreword INDIES awards in 2019. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoriBDuff and on Facebook. For more blogs written by Lori, click here. For more information about Lori in general, click here. If you want Lori to do your writing for you, click here. If you want Lori to help you market your book, click here.