Sophie Stanton wants to be a "Jackie Kennedy kind of widow. Slim and composed, elegant and graceful." She does a decent job of it until three months after her husband's death when she drives her car through the garage door ... twice. As her grief and despair drag her down in their undertow, she becomes more of a "Jack Daniels kind of widow --- wailing in the supermarket and mowing through the salad bar, hair all crazy like an unmade bed."
Married for only three years, Sophie is a widow at thirty-six, having lost her husband to cancer. She sits in a lonely house with a leak she doesn't know to fix. Her job is a joke, with the boss from hell. Her only family lives three thousand miles away from her Silicon Valley home, where she moved to be with her husband.
As she works her way through the stages of grief --- denial, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance --- Sophie adds a few of her own: eating an entire family pack of Oreos in one sitting under the bedcovers, having a breakdown in the produce section of the grocery store, and going to work in her bathrobe and pink bunny slippers.
Unable to stand her empty house any longer, Sophie decides to start over in Ashland, Oregon, where her best friend Ruth lives. She toasts her decision with a martini that she drinks from the empty urn that once held Ethan's ashes. "I drink my martini from the urn, its square edge sharp against my lips. Everything in the room begins to soften, and moving up to Oregon doesn't seem so scary." This is a chance for her to be "Sophie Enid Stanton: widow. Starting over."
She can't outrun her grief, but in Ashland Sophie finds that there is "solace in offering solace to others." She applies to the Big Sister program, and instead of the adorable seven- or eight-year-old she had envisioned, her "little sister" is Crystal, a thirteen-year-old with more problems that Sophie. Crystal lives with her indifferent single mother, struggles in school and has a dangerous fascination with fire.
Things continue not go smoothly as Sophie take a job as a waitress in a local restaurant. After a series of mishaps, she is relocated from the dining room to the kitchen --- a blessing in disguise because she's soon creating and preparing desserts and enjoying it --- an experience that leads her to open her own bakery.
Her love life is slower in coming around than her professional life, as the handsome actor she meets just might be too good to be true. After all, she reasons, he must harbor a "dark, psycho-killer secret because everyone knows all the nice, smart, normal men are married. Only the trolls are left."
A novel about a woman coping with grief might seem off-putting, but not in Lolly Winston's hands. Sophie's circumstances are the catalyst for the unfolding of the story, and Winston combines emotion and humor to create a poignant tale that will draw you in from the first page.
GOOD GRIEF is a story about love, loss, friendship, courage, and most of all, renewal. In the end, Jackie Kennedy or Jack Daniels, Sophie realizes it doesn't matter. Her life is no longer defined by being a widow.
Reviewed by Shannon McKenna on January 22, 2011
- Publication Date: April 4, 2005
- Genres: Fiction
- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
- ISBN-10: 0446694843
- ISBN-13: 9780446694841