Some widows face their loss with denial. Sophie Stanton’s reaction is one of pure bafflement. “How can I be a widow?” Sophie asks at the opening of Lolly Winston’s sweet debut novel, Good Grief. “I’m only thirty-six. I just got used to the idea of being married.”
Sophie’s young widowhood forces her to do all kinds of crazy things–drive her car through her garage door, for instance.
That’s on one of the rare occasions when she bothers to get out of bed.
The Christmas season especially terrifies her: “I must write a memo to the Minister of Happier Days requesting that the holidays be cancelled this year.”
But widowhood also forces her to do something very sane. After the death of her computer programmer husband, she reexamines her life as a public relations agent in money-obsessed Silicon Valley. Sophie decides to ease her grief, or at least her loneliness, by moving in with her best friend Ruth in Ashland, Oregon.
But it’s her difficult relationship with psycho teen punker Crystal, to whom she becomes a Big Sister, that mysteriously brings her at least a few steps out of her grief.
Winston allows Sophie life after widowhood: The novel almost indiscernibly turns into a gentle romantic comedy and a quirky portrait of life in an artsy small town.
At all stops on her journey from widow to survivor, Sophie is a lively, crabby, delightfully imperfect character. –Claire Dederer —