Patton Oswalt is a comedian, actor, and writer. You probably know him from The King of Queens or as the voice of Remy the rat in Pixar’s Ratatouille. Chances are, you also recognize the name of Patton Oswalt’s wife, Michelle McNamara for her true crime writing and journalism. Many have speculated about the short time between McNamara’s sudden death and the relationship with Patton Oswalt’s new wife, Meredith Salenger. We’re breaking down this timeline, Oswalt’s new relationship, and the internet backlash it inspired.
Patton Oswalt Lost His First Wife Five Years Ago
April 2021 marked the five-year anniversary of Michelle McNamara’s death. McNamara, a renowned true crime investigator and writer, died at the young age of 46. She passed away in her sleep due to an accidentally toxic cocktail of Adderall, Fentanyl, and Xanax, paired with an undiagnosed heart condition.
At the time of her death, McNamara was in the process of writing I’ll Be Gone In The Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer. This true crime book follows the story of the Golden State Killer (a name she actually coined.) It also chronicles her involvement with researching and investigating this famous unsolved serial killer case. For the two years that followed her death, Oswalt made it his mission to ensure that her book was released. Just days after the four-year anniversary of McNamara’s death, the case was solved. Joseph James DeAngelo was finally identified as the Golden State Killer and arrested after 42 years of investigating.
This was thanks, in large part, to McNamara’s linking of the crimes and persistent attention to the case. Her book, I’ll Be Gone In The Dark, became a #1 New York Times Bestseller. It also went on to inspire the HBO docu-series of the same name.
Did He Remarry Too Quickly?
After McNamara’s sudden death in April 2016, Oswalt was openly devastated. He was navigating loss along with being a newly single dad to their 12-year-old daughter, Alice. But by July 2017, just a year and three months later, Oswalt was engaged to actress, Meredith Salenger. The two were married in November 2017. Because of this quick turnaround, the internet had some questions about how Oswalt coped with tragedy and whether it was too soon to move on.
Oswalt and Salenger met over Facebook as a result of a dinner party invite that they both couldn’t attend. The relationship blossomed into messaging back and forth every day for three months until finally meeting in person that May.
In response to the backlash about his relationship timeline, he told the Guardian, “I feel like I’m only living this life. I don’t owe anyone else anything else.” Oswalt’s words have helped to squash the questions about how he chose to cope with his loss. He cited that Salenger helped him and his daughter during a dark time, rather than erasing his first wife’s memory. In an Instagram post on the 5 year anniversary of McNamara’s death, Oswalt discussed how the day made him think of his late wife, how her death “shaped” their daughter, Alice, and how he and Alice have helped each other cope with their loss. He went on to add that, “Meredith swooped into our lonely, broken lives and helped put the pieces back together, stronger and sleeker than they were before.”
Ultimately, coping with tragedy is different for everyone, and what matters most is finding a way to have joy again. Oswalt and Salenger’s love brought joy out of devastation for them and for Alice. As time passes, the three of them continue honoring McNamara’s amazing legacy. In Oswalt’s words, the anniversary of McNamara’s death “gets a little less dark every year when I see how Alice—a living piece of Michelle safe in the hands of Meredith—keeps walking in light.”