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saturday-night-widowsReviewed by Claudia Robinson

“Walking into the store that day, I assumed I knew the underlying reason why a bunch of widows would band together to try on underwear. They were uncomfortable with their bodies, I presumed. They needed reassurance that they still had the requisite allure. Women are always hearing about how insecure they are supposed to feel about their physiques, and I had bought into the line. In fact, everyone looked fabulous, better than most men our ages. I didn’t know what the others were thinking, but if anyone was concerned about body issues, she shouldn’t be. No, I thought, it wasn’t our bodies we were most concerned about. The insecurity was over what to do with them.” – Saturday Night Widows

It is not often that I ask Vera to ‘just send me something you think I’ll like’. This time, however, I did, because I simply didn’t have the energy to make my own choice, and having written for Vera so long, I was confident she’d pick something fabulous. What I didn’t expect was a book that ripped open an old wound, made me cry, and alternately began a healing process that I never even knew I still needed.

Becky Aikman is a young widow; she’s lost her husband, Bernie, to cancer, and is having issues finding her place in a society that views widows as black cloth adorned women, sobbing stoically in the dark, scorning pleasure or fun. During a bereavement support meeting for widows, Becky not only finds herself the youngest, but the most prepared to define and conquer her new existence, something the others don’t find appropriate behavior. When she addresses her concerns with the group’s adviser, she’s essentially told she doesn’t conform to the group’s ideal, and in a round about way, asked to not return. This experience leads Becky on a quest to seek out widows closer to her own age, and start her own group, in an attempt to provide a more upbeat, contemporary, alternative setting for those who’ve lost a loved one.

Becky, together with Tara, Lesley, Marcia, Denise & Dawn, all strangers, until the first meeting, form the Saturday Night Widow club. While all bring a myriad of experiences and different walks of life and experience, to the table, and even though each woman’s loss and grief is different and unique, all have one singular, all encompassing similarity: they are young, and widowed, and perceived by society as broken and damaged. Still raw, the women tentatively embark on a journey of self-discovery, renewal and reinvention. Spa dates, cooking classes, lingerie shopping, and a trip to Morocco, serve as unique venues for confessions, grievances, connections and guidance. For the course of a year, Becky pens an intimate memoir of six women, and their relationships, with self, family, friends, and the group, and how time may not heal, but it definitely makes a difference, when you’re in good company.

I was widowed at the age of 29, left with a 14 month old son and I identified strongly with Lesley, we had very similar circumstances. I must confess that I forced myself to read through the first couple of chapters, all instincts screamed at me to send the book back to Vera with a simple note: “not gonna happen”. For a week, the book sat on my nightstand, and I hated it for bringing me back to a place I’d truly thought I’d left behind 14 years ago. After all, I was remarried to an amazing man, and now had two great children. My life was good, how could a stupid book, hurt me?

I finally picked the book up and swallowed a few chapters down. I spent some nights hating Becky for making me feel things I hadn’t felt, or re-living things I’d thought I’d buried, deeply. Becky is an artist with her language, and her ability to draw out human emotion and paint it in to words, is uncanny. I found myself, albeit unwillingly, falling in with the six women, and the bittersweet jealousy I felt at not having had this group around when I needed it, was, for the most part, the only thing that bothered me as I read on. I began bringing the book out in to the light with me, and sneaking chapters in between caring for the kids. I wanted to know now, how everyone was faring, and where they would end up, and how they would find their peace. What started off as a painful book, became a companion-read, where for the first time in my life, I felt someone was talking my language.

For anyone who has lost a spouse, or knows someone who has, and wants to better understand the machinations behind a brain in grief and the heart’s determination to go on, despite everything, Saturday Night Widows is a must read. Sweet, quirky, funny, tender and brutally honest and true, Becky and her friends allow readers an intimate and very raw perspective in to a ‘club’ no one ever, ever asks to be a member of. Fears, dreams, passions, hearts and souls, laughter and tears, are splayed wide, cracked open, for all to share, and experience, in a way, usually only reserved, for those who have earned the right to ‘wear the t-shirt’. I need to thank Vera, Becky, Tara, Lesley, Marcia, Denise and Dawn for the experience. It made me realize that our healing never really ends, but that life, does and will, go on. With, or without our presence, and it’s up to us to rock it.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Claudia lives on beautiful Cape Cod with her husband and two children.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Crown. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.