Good Grief by Lolly Winston
Warner Books, 2004
This book reaffirmed why Lolly Winston is one of my favorite authors. I read her second book first (Happiness Sold Separately, my review is here). And read this one, her debut, second. In both books her writing style takes center stage, and her storytelling gets fumbled up at the end. But it's not done so poorly as to take away from your joy of the overall reading experience. Both books are kind of inconclusive at the end, meaning, they don't feel like endings. The story just... ceases, mid-thought.
As I said, however, Winston's writing style is what shines. The wording, the comparisons, the deep reflection, the unique view of the main character... it all tugs you along until suddenly you realize you're nearing the final page. I could read her fiction forever.
But the book has no plot to speak of. The story is all about Sophie's changes and progress through the trials of being a young, childless widow. She goes through the normal phases, starting with denial. Then eats her way through depression, loses her job, relocates, joins the Big Brothers & Sisters program and gets a motherly attachment to her assigned "Little Sister", goes from a stumbling waitress to nearly head chef at a restaurant then risks everything to start her own bakery, etc, etc, etc. And at some point she finds love, loses it, finds it again, but still isn't quite sure how she feels about the new guy at the end.
So the reader simply follows Sophie on this wayward journey, hoping she's somehow better off when it's all said and done. I'm not sure she is, though. But that didn't really bother me because that's how life is, so it seemed realistic in its portrayal.
The strong points of this novel are most certainly in the details. I gave it 5 out of 5 stars. And it's no wonder it was a NYT bestseller and a #1 BookSense pick in March/April 2004 (the copy I read includes a reading group guide). I would definitely read this again.