Summary and book reviews of Good Grief by Lolly Winston

Good Grief

By Lolly Winston

Good Grief
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  • Hardcover: Apr 2004,
    448 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2005,
    360 pages.

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Book Summary

"The funny thing about rock bottom is there's stuff underneath it. You think, This is it: I'm at the bottom now. It's all uphill from here! Then you discover the escalator goes down one more floor to another level of bargain basement junk."

GOOD GRIEF

In an age in which women are expected to be high achievers, thirty-six-year-old Sophie Stanton desperately wants to be a good widow--a graceful, composed, Jackie Kennedy kind of widow. Alas, Sophie is more of a Jack Daniels kind. Self-medicating with cartons of ice cream for breakfast, breaking down in the produce section at the supermarket, showing up to work in her bathrobe and bunny slippers--soon she's not only lost her husband, but her job, her house, and her waistline.

Desperate to reinvent her life, Sophie moves to Ashland, Oregon. But instead of the way women starting over are depicted in the movies--with heroines instantly being swept off their feet by Sam Shepard kinds of guys--Sophie finds herself in the middle of Lucy-and-Ethel madcap adventures with a darkly comic edge involving a thirteen-year-old with a fascination with fire and an alarmingly handsome actor who inspires a range of feelings she can't cope with--yet.

Filled with laugh-out-loud humor, struggles, triumphs, and plenty of midnight trips to the fridge, Good Grief is a funny, wise, and heartbreakingly poignant novel from one of fiction's freshest and most exciting new voices.

DENIAL
I

How can I be a widow? Widows wear horn-rimmed glasses and cardigan sweaters that smell like mothballs and have crepe-paper skin and names like Gladys or Midge and meet with their other widow friends once a week to play pinochle. I'm only thirty-six. I just got used to the idea of being married, only test-drove the words my husband for three years: My husband and I, my husband and I...after all that time being single!

As we go around the room introducing ourselves at the grief group, my heart drums in my chest. No wonder people fear public speaking more than death or heights or spiders. I rehearse a few lines in my head:

My name is Sophie and I live in San Jose and my husband died. No. My name is Sophie and my husband passed away of Hodgkin's disease, which is a type of cancer young adults get. Oh, but they probably already know that. This group seems up on its diseases.

A silver-haired man whose wife also died of cancer says that now when he gets up in the...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Clearly everyone doesn't go through the grieving process in the same way and at the same speed. What does Sophie's experience tell us about grief? How do Sophie and Marion differ when it comes to grieving? What aspects of Sophie's grief can you relate to? Are we sometimes too quick to tell people to "get over it," and move on with their grief? How might we be more comforting to those who are struggling with grief?

  2. The theme of illness or decay extends beyond Ethan's death. At one point, Sophie says, "I look at the house and all I see is cancer." Her house then becomes literally much emptier than when Ethan was alive. Do you think that the death of a loved one casts a shadow ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

An enjoyable read, even though it did seem a little incredible that someone could go from the bottomless despair of grief to the heights of competence, and even happiness, in the timescale of the book   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review Members Only (697 words).

Media Reviews
Author Blurb Billie Letts, author of Where The Heart Is
Lolly Winston had me from page one, really from the first paragraph...

Publishers Weekly

Throughout this heartbreaking, gorgeous look at loss, Winston imbues her heroine and her narrative with the kind of grace, bitter humor and rapier-sharp realness that will dig deep into a reader's heart and refuse to let go.

Library Journal - Kellie Gillespie

..... this first novel is a rare treat. Sophie is self-deprecating, smart-alecky, insecure, and so lost in grief and despair that we become instantly involved in her situation. Her new life seems to bring more challenges, but she learns to face them with determination, humor, and the hope of finding some kind of meaning from the tragedy she has experienced. Highly recommended for all public libraries.

Kirkus Reviews

The characters are frothy, the dialogue chipper, the introspection restricted. Death becomes just another hurdle on the way to self-betterment--along with weight-management and resume-padding. Are women this desperate? Effervescent, silly debut so eager to please that it reads like the speech of the candidate who won't open his mouth before the polls are consulted.

Reader Reviews
Melissa

Surviving the quicksand
At first I disliked this book, because it seemed to be going nowhere. There was little plot, there was little character development, it felt repetitive. Yet, I continued on and I'm glad I did. I realized that the book was the epitome of the grief ...   Read More

Mary

Totally entertaining
I loved this book. It made me laugh out loud and I have shared it with all my friends and family. I think Lolly did a wonderful job and can't wait to read more of her work.

Jody

Whatever!
This book started out on the right track. Winston's portrayal of grief was rather engaging. Then the hijinx begin. Every trendy element of modern society is covered. I found the year after the heiress' husbands death highly unbelievable and ...   Read More

Mamacita

This book was laugh out loud funny! Having lived through a similar situation it was unnervingly familiar. It's tough to see the humerous side of death but she really succeeds. Thanks to author Winston for bringing back the memories and moments--both...   Read More

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Elisabeth Kubler Ross was born in 1926 in Zurich, Switzerland and died of natural causes in 2004 in Arizona. Her ground breaking and bestselling book, On Death and Dying, (1969) did much to change the treatment of terminally ill patients.  She was compelled to write it while working as a doctor in hospitals in New York, Colorado and Chicago, where she was appalled by the standard treatment for ...

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