We’re not exactly big criers. (We watched The Notebook. Nothing.) But Artis Henderson’s stunning new memoir, Unremarried Widow, had us bawling often and publicly.

It’s not that it’s intentionally tear-jerking. It’s because Henderson’s voice is so relatable that you can’t help but imagine her story of love and loss as your own.

Initially the subject of a New York Times “Modern Love” column, Unremarried Widow centers around the death of Henderson’s husband, Miles, an Army pilot whose helicopter went down in Iraq in 2006.

Artis and Miles were always an unlikely pair. She was a liberal intellectual. He was a Texas good ol’ boy. She imagined a life of international travel. He favored a nomadic trek from Army base to Army base. And yet they somehow worked.

But after Miles died and the military reduced Artis to the status of “unremarried widow,” she was forced to figure out who she really was and to what extent a tragic past would define her.

As anyone who saw us crying on the flight home after Christmas can attest, Henderson’s tale is really gosh-darn sad. (It brings to mind the great Joan Didion.) But this is also a story about restoring hope and rediscovering oneself.

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