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Good Grief: 02/22/07

Good Grief

I picked up a copy of Good Grief at the June 2006 BookCrossing meeting. I had some reservations about the book from the outset but I'm more willing to expand my horizons with BookCrossing books than with books I buy myself. Having now read the book I'm glad I took a chance with it but I found the story flawed in a number of ways.

In Good Grief a thirty-something woman finds herself newly widowed after only a few years of marriage. In that time she and her husband had tried unsuccessfully to have children until he had succumbed to cancer. In the course of the story she must come to terms with her new status as a widow and recreate her life as a single woman.

The first two thirds of Good Grief are written with a dark sense of humor that captures Sophie's shock, anger and disbelief. She focuses so much on the absence of her husband and the child they never managed to have together that she neglects her own life. She eats junk food and grows out of her clothes. She doesn't sleep well and has a nervous breakdown at work, ultimately losing her job.

Around the point where Sophie loses her job I started to lose interest in the book. Her grief seemed too angsty and her reactions too unrealistic. As so much of the narrative was focused on her husband it was hard to gauge Sophie as a character. She seemed to be only defined by her husband, a person she had only just married.

To redefine herself and restart her life she moves in with a friend in Oregon. Here we go from grieving widow who can't let go to single mother in an abusive relationship. Together of course the women rise above their problems and at last find happiness.

I wouldn't have minded the schmaltzy ending by itself but Ruth's daughter completely blew my suspension of disbelief. Winton describes the child as being 4-years-old but she has no dialogue, is struggling to feed herself Cheerios from a bowl and still rides around in a stroller. Yet this child isn't set up as a disabled character; she is just meant to be the stand-in for the child Sophie never had. Winton either doesn't have children or has forgotten what 4-year-olds are like. This child's unbelievability made me question all the other character choices and plot twists so that the neatly wrapped ending annoyed rather than pleased me.

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