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.