Of all of the things she has experienced in her life, Sophie Stanton never dreamed she would be a widow at age thirty-six. Ethan, her husband of four years, died three months ago, and Sophie is having a tough time keeping it together. Desperate to keep some semblance of normalcy, Sophie continues to work at her Silicon Valley PR job, attempting to say good things about a flawed medical product. But grief isn't so easily shelved, and soon it begins to take over. Sophie finds herself eating Oreos by the dozen and watching Cops marathons on TV. She goes days without showering or changing clothes. The final straw is when she goes to work in her robe and bunny slippers.
After recovering from her breakdown, Sophie decides to make a big change and move to Ashland, Oregon, where her college roommate, Ruth, lives. She gets a job as a waitress, which leads her to discover a passion for baking. She becomes a Big Sister to a troubled thirteen-year-old, and even meets a new man. But Sophie comes to realize that grief doesn't have a timetable, and just when she thinks she has it beat, it returns to hit her again.
Good Grief is a superbly written novel, filled with deep emotion and tempered with humor. The reader can truly empathize with Sophie as she travels the road through her grief and the development of a new life for herself. The overwhelmed feelings she experiences are extremely realistic, which made me a partner in the loss, rather than watching from the outside. The supporting characters all help to round out the story and give it more depth. The humor included throughout keeps the tone light instead of maudlin.
Watching Sophie's transition from paralyzed to productive is joyful. The descriptions of the things she bakes definitely made me hungry, and the cozy setting of Ashland seems the perfect place for her to start over. The one drawback was the inclusion of Ethan's mom, Marion, and her Alzheimer's Disease. I thought this was handled much too breezily, almost as a method of humor rather than the truly serious disease it is.
Good Grief is a true treasure, one to be savored. It will make you laugh, cry, and nod your head in understanding at everything Sophie experiences. The ending leaves the reader knowing that Sophie is on her way to becoming whole again, but doesn't tie everything up in a neat package. I look forward to reading much more by Lolly Winston in the future.