Book Review: The Old Man's Love Song by Rudolfo Anaya

by DerdriuMarriner

The Old Man's Love Song follows a widower's first year without the love of his life. The novella mixes new and old events, past and present memories. It offers heartache and humor.

Better to love and mourn than not love

The Old Man's Love Song articulates New Mexican anthology editor, fiction and non-fiction writer, and university professor Rudolfo Anaya's (born October 30, 1937) ardor for his beloved wife and best friend Patricia Anne Lawless (1924 - January 5, 2010). It begins with the retired high school literature teacher becoming ill, convalescing at home and in the hospital, and dying in her soul mate's arms. It calls upon her soul mate's happy childhood with a moon-driven mother and sun-guided father and a happier adulthood with a blue-eyed, fair-skinned literature classmate, Anglo mother to two daughters. The 170-page, 27-chapter novella describes the widowed soul mate, a retired literature professor, reconciling memories of true love with enjoyment of loving friendship.

Sunset near Albuquerque: Sandia Mountains (background) and Rio Grande (foreground) ~

Born in Lyons, Indiana, Patricia Anne Lawless Anaya fell in love with New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment, and with the state's most famous modern writer, Rudolfo Anaya.
Albuquerque area sunset and natural landscape
Albuquerque area sunset and natural landscape

Blessed be those who love well and wisely

The information-filled, memory-packed narrative examines the sensitive but universal experience of traumas which are natural events and personal tragedies. The widower finds himself facing the dilemma of: 

  • being a merged person whose significant other is gone forever from this life to the afterlife; 
  • committing to keeping his beloved in his affections and memories while eliminating such physical remains as clothes posthumously donated to a women's shelter; and 
  • developing as a person faithful to the old and receptive to the new. 

He gets an efficient cleaning woman who discards memorial candles and flowers and hides his wife's picture -- which he likes to kiss leaving and returning -- in a drawer. A closet still holds her wedding dress. 

Albuquerque's clouds and sunset: Rudolfo Anaya includes above-ground spectacles such as clouds and sunsets in his lyrical descriptions of Albuquerque's dramatic landscapes.

Albuquerque's sunset skyline
Albuquerque's sunset skyline

Bringing new experiences into lives filled with memories

The widower investigates intimacy with a widowed friend after a class reunion and despite a morning water aerobics gym-mate, Ernesto, dying from heart complications after overusing enhancement drugs and steroids. He judges as most conciliatory to past and present keeping a journal of events -- in honor of previous Chicana/Chicano, New Mexican, and women's activism -- and maintaining their flowers, lawn, and tomatoes. He knows that: 

  • life configures the Angel of Death's advancing anti-community individualism and casual sex and God's allowing death and grief; 
  • and Thanksgiving with relatives consuming mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, red chile, and turkey trumps it alone with beans, boiled eggs, chicken wings, and wilting lettuce.

He therefore looks for a fourth Greek muse. 

Left directionless by his wife's death, Rudolfo Anaya searches for comfort and meaning in New Mexico's heritage:

The sacred Zia Sun Symbol, depicting a sun with rays pointing in four directions, inspires New Mexicans as important icon of their cultural, geographic, and spiritual heritage.
sacred Zia symbol of sun and four directions on Flag of New Mexico

By the clouds of the summer's Cloud People

The widower's muse of forgetfulness or grief merges with Uranus's and Gaea's daughters: 

  • meditation-strong Melete;
  • memory-strong Mneme; and 
  • song-strong Aoide. 

Alone-time, Christmas celebrations, Don Quixote-like romanticism, a granddaughter's pregnancy, a lady-friend, spring-cleaning, tax-paying, and writing Last Exit to Aztlán nudge the widower into projecting 5 to 10 years of caring about community, Earth, family, and poor. But the afterlife opens with the summer's Cloud People taking the reunited couple on a tour of favorite places. 

The Old Man's Love Story provides culturally enriching, educationally entertaining, and philosophically engaging insights into love's journey through birthing, dying, and re-birthing thanks to: 

  • Rudolfo Anaya's text; and 
  • University of Oklahoma Press's 2013-released volume 12 in Chicana & Chicano Visions of the Américas series. 

The Old Man's Love Story by Rudolfo Anaya

Compelling, tender opening line: "There was an old man who dwelt in the land of New Mexico, and he lost his wife."
Rudolfo Anaya writings


My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.


Milky Way over the Land of Enchantment, with Albuquerque's lights blazing (right):

The entirety of New Mexico's landscapes enchanted the marriage of Rudolfo Anaya and his late wife, Patricia Anne Lawless Anaya.
New Mexico's interior landscape: as above, so below
New Mexico's interior landscape: as above, so below

Sources Consulted


Anaya, Rudolfo. 2013. The Old Man's Love Song. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, Volume 12 Chicana & Chicano Visions of the Américas series edited by Robert Con Davis-Undiano. 

Hopkins, Gerard Manley. 1877. "The Windhover."

"Patricia Anne Anaya." Obituary. Boston, MA: Tributes, Inc. Retrieved March 3, 2015. 

  • Available at:

"Rudolfo Anaya: Brief Bio." UNM: University Libraries > Research Guides > Biography. Retrieved March 3, 2015.

  • Available at:

U.S. Census Bureau. (1940). “Patricia Lawless.” Department of Commerce -- Bureau of the Census. Sixteenth Census of the United States: 1940 Population Schedule.

  • Retrieved for Elkhart City, Taloga Township, Morton County, Kansas, Household 227 Line 28 via and on March 3, 2015. 

Wolfe, Thomas. 1929. Look Homeward, Angel: A Story of the Buried Life

the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

New Mexico: black t-shirt ~ Available via AllPosters

illustration by Charmaine Olivia
New Mexico
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Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 03/03/2015, DerdriuMarriner
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