GOOD GRIEF by Lolly Winston

A friend at work lent me Good Grief by Lolly Winston.  It looks like classic chick lit, from the pastel-colored cover and the quotes on the back from Jennifer Weiner and Anne Rivers Siddons.

But I was pleasantly surprised by this book. In fact, I read it in about 5 days, which for me these days is fast, given how little time I have to read.  It’s about Sophie, a 36-year old widow living in San Jose, CA and the first year after her husband dies of Hodgkin’s.  After hitting rock bottom, she slowly gets her life back together and moves to Oregon to start over.  In some ways, the book is a little formulaic – with the help of some unexpected friends and her own pluck, Sophie manages to create a new life for herself and work through her grief. However, this book went beyond chick lit and that predictable formula.

Sophie is matter-of-fact and honest without feeling sorry for herself. Her depictions of grief are realistic and, at times, heartbreaking. (I cried several times while reading this book – beware of page 216 especially). The happy moments are usually tinged with melancholy, and the people in Sophie’s lives are ultimately flawed.  But the book is not maudlin or even depressing – instead, it is compelling and uplifting without being saccharine.

Other than one scene that is a bit over the top, and an ending that’s a shade too pat, this was a very good book and I really recommend it.

Has anyone else out there read Good Grief or Winston’s next book, Happiness Sold Separately? I picked up the latter at a used bookstore in Seattle last week and hope to read it soon.