Published online by Cambridge University Press: 03 June 2021
Mary Lavin tells the same story over and over. It is always a story of two lives, governed by love gained or lost. Love may be lost in or through a bad marriage; still, it commands lifelong fidelity, heightened by the socially enforced sexual abstinence that accompanies it. But even a happy marriage can lead to an enforced chastity, a version of celibacy (even though celibacy strictly means the state of being unmarried). The early death of a husband can invoke this chastity/celibacy in the widow as a kind of loyalty to him, to their original marriage vows. Remarriage, or another sexual relationship, has to sometimes be figured as an almost defiant loyalty to oneself. There are many variations on these relationships. Yet the first happiness can never be relived or recaptured, not even in remarriage, although it remains as a ghostly presence, memory or fantasy, in any later state.
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