Sunday, January 6, 2013

Saturday Night Widows by Becky Aikman

In her forties – a widow, too young, too modern to accept the role – Becky Aikman struggled to make sense of her place in an altered world. In this transcendent and infectiously wise memoir, she explores surprising new discoveries about how people experience grief and transcend loss and, following her own remarriage, forms a group with five other young widows to test these unconventional ideas. Together, these friends summon the humor, resilience, and striving spirit essential for anyone overcoming adversity.

Meet the Saturday Night Widows: ringleader Becky, an unsentimental journalist who lost her husband to cancer; Tara, a polished mother of two, whose husband died in the throes of alcoholism after she filed for divorce; Denise, a widow of just five months, now struggling to get by; Marcia, a hard-driving corporate lawyer; Dawn, an alluring self-made entrepreneur whose husband was killed in a sporting accident, leaving two small children behind; and Lesley, a housewife who returned home one day to find that her husband had committed suicide.

The women meet once a month, and over the course of a year, they strike out on ever more far-flung adventures, learning to live past the worst thing they thought could happen. They share emotional peaks and valleys – dating, parenting, moving, finding meaningful work, and reinventing themselves – while turning traditional thinking about loss and recovery upside down. Through it all runs the story of Aikman's own journey through grief and her love affair with a man who tempts her to marry again. In a transporting story of what friends can achieve when they hold each other up, Saturday Night Widows is a rare book that will make you laugh, think, and remind yourself that despite the utter unpredictability and occasional tragedy of life, it is also precious, fragile, and often more joyous than we recognize.

This book sounded more interesting than it really was. It’s a bit awful to say that about a memoir, but it’s one of those books that has been done over and over until it loses meaning.

It started out with potential. The writing was fresh and at least the first chapter is interesting, bringing something new to the table. The idea of a woman wanting to revolutionize the way we look at loss and death and widowhood definitely caught my attention. The problems started a bit later, when the writer introduces the women who will become part of her life as a widow. I just couldn’t get a real sense of who they were, or who Becky was, actually. The personalities get lost in the back and forth shuffle between telling us about the husband’s deaths. It felt like the only thing that defined these women were their husbands, which is exactly the opposite of what the author is trying to achieve.

The book was too slow and too fast at the same time, if that makes sense. The author never really took the time to elaborate on too much, not even in the climactic bit of the book where the women go on a trip to Morocco together. And then other times, she repeated the same sentiment over and over, so that the pages ground to a halt.

I’m sure there’s an audience for this kind of memoir, but it wasn’t nearly as deep for me as I wanted it to be. I’d pass on this one and go read something with a bit more meat.


No comments: