Book Club Thoughts: Saturday Night Widows, by Becky Aikman

Posted on Feb 11, 2013 in Book Reviews & Reading, Failure | 11 comments

Saturday Night Widows, book cover image

AKA Wherein I Bury the Lede. Read: Some hint of news, below!

After passing on most of the recent selections of the From Left to Write book club I joined a while ago, I surprised myself by jumping at the opportunity to read Saturday Night Widows, by Becky Aikman.

I don’t often read non-fiction or memoirs (but I should; I do so enjoy a good memoir). Also, I assumed, for no reason but my own cynical distaste for books like Eat, Pray, Love, that it would either be a self-indulgent sap-fest or a deliberate tear-jerker, or both. And yet still I was drawn to it.

It’s the story of the author who, a few years after her husband died and she struggled with a grief-support system that managed to make her feel more ostracized than supported, decided to bring five other recent widows together in an experiment of, you guessed it, support. None of the women had known each other before, and Becky recounted not only their year of spending one Saturday night together each month, but a bit about each woman’s story, in general.

The friendship and honesty of this book made me unable to put it down. Never melodramatic, always self-aware, the story is simply one of the friendship that grew between the women over that year. Through a trying time, yes, but the trying part wasn’t as much the focus as the actual women and the healing they experienced with each other.

Becky’s treatment of widowhood and grief leads me to hope I’ll be a better friend in the inevitable situation when someone I love is in mourning. Funny how my mind refused, and refuses still, to think about my own inevitable experiences of mourning and grief.

I was going to write about friendship, here. About the too-easy-to-take-for-granted ease and comfort that comes from only the closest of relationships. But after several rambling attempts to say anything at all coherent, I’ve decided instead to talk about writing.

While I read this book, my agent was, and is still, in the process of hammering out the details of a book contract. It’s a book of words and tales and tips and exercises, not of crafts projects, that comes from the same place Mighty Ugly comes from. It’s a book of ideas. It’s an odd book and it’s taken a while to find the right home for it, and I have that feeling I get in my gut when elements collide perfectly now that it seems to have found the perfect home. And that means I feel like I’ve found the perfect home, and that’s just an amazing feeling, full stop. I’ll write more about it when the ink is dry, but for now, about the writing.

Saturday Night Widows inspires me in the way it’s written. Becky’s writing is masterful. I want to write my book that well. I want to tell my story and I want to profile other people in a way that leads readers to relate and respond. I want my writing to seem as effortless as hers does, which means I’ll need to work as hard as she did. I want to ground myself in facts while I focus on topics that are as inherently variable as the ones she tackled. I want my readers to feel as I do upon finishing this book – grounded, hopeful, safe and invigorated.

I can’t think of a better state of mind to be in as I prepare to crack my knuckles next week to return to work on a manuscript I first began last summer.

A theme that runs throughout Saturday Night Widows is the fearlessness that comes after you’ve already experienced the thing you were most afraid of. That’s pretty much at the heart of making something ugly in an effort to be less fearful with one’s creativity, but without the horror and grief of having to experience utter devastation for real. It’s a good place for me to start.

This post was inspired by Saturday Night Widows by Becky Aikman. After being kicked out of her widow support group for being too young and optimistic, Becky creates her own group with an unusual twist. Join From Left to Write on February 14 as we discuss Saturday Night Widows. Disclosure: As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.
 
  • Nancy Cavillones

    I didn’t sign up for this book because I felt like I needed a break but after seeing it in the bookstore, I regretted not signing up! I’ll have to check it out from the library. By the way, how was the Holocene hangout? I ended up taking a long nap and missing it… when my husband’s home and I’m pregnant, I grab those when I can! :)

    ETA: The book news is exciting! I’ll give you early congrats… :)

  • http://www.kimwerker.com/ Kim Werker

    You’re pregnant! Mazel tov!

    I really do highly recommend the book. Borrow it before there’s a huge waiting list, because I’m certain it’ll be a blockbuster.

    The Holocene hangout was pretty awesome. The tech actually worked, and we spent a couple hours knitting and crocheting and talking about all sorts of things, from sloths to weaving. We’ll do it again, for sure!

  • http://twitter.com/MMAAC Vanessa

    Oh! Wow, I totally misjudged this book. I haven’t read it but I’ve passed over it thinking (like you) that it was a sap fest. I’ll have to give this a try.

    It’s funny, people look at me oddly when I explain that my husband is a widower. His wife died when he was 26 and she was 28. We are happily married but people assume that he must still be harboring grief for her or that she’s still a specter in our relationship. It’s anything but that. I know parts of him still love her but it’s different. She doesn’t “haunt” our every day and I think my husband loves me with a different mind and heart–one that’s been through grief and one that’s older (he’s 34 now, we married when he was 31).

    I’m excited to read this through the eyes of a “second wife”.

  • http://www.kimwerker.com/ Kim Werker

    I’d love to hear your take on the book, Vanessa. It’s not at all sappy, and as someone who, thankfully, has not had experience with widows or widowers in my peer group, it gave me some meaty perspective. I anticipate you’ll relate to it in a whole other way, and I hope it doesn’t disappoint!

  • Jennifer Wolfe

    I also enjoyed this book, even though it made me cry way too often. Her writing was strong, and the themes of friendship, courage and resilience really resonated with me.

  • Nancy Cavillones

    Thanks! I look forward to the next one. I don’t knit or crochet so I’ll bring along some embroidery. That counts, right?!

  • http://www.kimwerker.com/ Kim Werker

    Yes! That certainly counts.

  • http://www.imnotthenanny.com Thien-Kim

    Reading about the Blossoms’ friendship made me yearn for a group of my own too. I’m so happy to hear about your book. Your passion for it jumps off my screen! I can’t wait to read it when it’s ready for the world.

  • http://www.kimwerker.com/ Kim Werker

    Thank you so much!

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  • Arlene Nespeca

    I recomend this book to especially us younger widows. I too was widowed at age 45. I can especially relate to Tara. It has been 10 years for me and have moved forward for sometime now. I met a widow whose wife died from cancer 11 years ago. He is a great guy and I am ever so greatful I opened that door to let him in. I am a strong willed person and allowed myself to move forward because I was so young. Just like the book people think I should not be happy. Why? As the saying goes life is too short, live it while you’re here. I think some people need to really listen to their own hearts after all their vows probably were” til death do you part.”
    It saddens me that so many people hold on to the past. I know what it feels like to walk into an empty house after your mate dies. The silence is deafening. I decided early on to take my ring off and start socializing again. No it wasnt easy but life is good no matter what comes your way and bottom line is only you have the answers. So i suggest doing things your own way and please dont let others who dont get it tell you how to do it. I really want to thank Becky for this book . I usually dont read books. Every widow should read the positivity and the insight these women found in each other. Thank you.

  • Debbie

    I read it. Couldn’t put it down. My husband passed 14 months ago. It was awful. Not just his death but the aftermath. I’m still so angry and want to let go of everything but I am having a hard time with that. It’s funny or not so funny how people say so sorry, you’ll always be family. Then they stop talking to you, saying you’re not worth it, take you to court. I never knew our melded family was just about money.. Any how was just wondering if anyone knew of a good support group or how to start one? I need help for sure.