Saturday, January 6, 2007

"Good Grief" by Lolly Winston

The first "official" book review! "Good Grief" is a first novel by Lolly Winston, and I can highly recommend it. Here's a brief synopsis, followed by my thoughts.

"Good Grief" follows Sophie Stanton as she tries to put her life back together after the death of her husband, Ethan. They were only married for 3 years, but Sophie is finding it very difficult time getting past his death. She's barely had time to get used to calling herself "Mrs"; "widow" just doesn't seem to fit. Ethan's death from cancer has proven to be a bit more traumatic than Sophie realizes. In fact, she's been desperately trying to be a good widow, a "Jackie Kennedy kind of widow." Unfortunately, she falls more in the "Jack Daniels" category, albeit with food rather than alcohol. She eats a bag of Oreos at a time, refuses to get out of bed, finds herself on the floor of the grocery store in a crying heap, etc. After showing up at her PR job in her bathrobe and slippers (and without having showered/bathed in almost a week), she is diagnosed as having a "depressive breakdown." She has hit the rock bottom.

Luckily, the bottom is not where Sophie stays. After getting herself together, she takes a leave of absence from her job, sells her house, packs her (and Ethan's) belongings, and moves to Ashland, Oregon to stay with her old friend Ruth. She slowly begins to work out of her shell, finding a place to rent, job, and friends. She even takes on the role of Big Sister to a troubled teen, Crystal. Even more surprising to her is a possible romance with a local actor (Ashland is home to a Shakespeare Festival every summer). Touching, funny, and poignant, "Good Grief" is the story of what happens when you don't live "happily ever after."

So now you wonder "that's it?" Well, yes and no. I don't want to say too much more about the plot, because that's basically it in a nutshell - woman loses husband, loses her mind a bit, moves and starts over. What I will tell you is how much this book surprised me. The inside blurb makes it sound like it will be funny (as do the pink bunny slippers on the dust jacket). There are several humorous parts, but they are nicely balanced by a more serious tone. Being a widow is hard; just ask Sophie. It's not just the death of someone close to you; it's the death of the person you were supposed to spend the rest of your life with. To have that cut short just seems so unfair, so terribly wrong. Even worse for Sophie is that Ethan was healthy when they married. The cancer came as a total shock for both of them.

You won't learn much about Ethan, and in some respects, I was a bit sorry about that fact. The other characters are well-developed though, even some peripheral ones. Ms.Winston has a nice style, easy to read but not overly simple. (I love the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich, but they're not going to win any prose awards anytime soon, I don't think!) I even found the relationship between Sophie and Crystal to "ring true" - I was worried at first that it was just a plot device. But while some of Crystal's mannerisms seem contrived, overall I think Ms. Winston hit the nail on the head about her attitude - she just wants to be included. I've seen a lot of kids like that here at the library; they follow you around asking tons of questions or just talking, and while annoying at times, you also realize that they're desperate for some sort of attention, even if it's the "wrong" kind.

Final review: I'd give this about 3 1/2 stars out of 5. Definitely looking forward to her next book (which we may have here at work, I'll need to check). Final thought: I hope that I'm not nearly as bad as Sophie when my hubster dies. Like Sophie, I married in my 30's. I've been lucky that both of us are healthy and that we've managed to make it 6 years - lots of marriages break up long before now. I worry that something will happen, though - my hubster is one of those "Doctors just want to cut you up and give you pills!" kinda guys. Hopefully, he'll stay healthy. I'm trying to keep him that way! But yes, it's going to be rough when I lose him, regardless of when that happens. It would be rough if it was tomorrow; it would be rough if it was 20 years from now. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it's a long, long time from now!

Till next time, faithful readers, keep your libraries and bookstores in business!

The Bookbabe

1 comment:

PJ said...

Good review....sounds like something I definitely will not read. Thanks for the info...