Saturday Night Widows: The Adventures Of Six Friends Remaking Their Lives

By Becky Aikman

(Crown, $26, 352 pages)

Who is this author?

Becky Aikman has a solid background in the news biz: she earned a degree at the prestigious School of Journalism at Columbia University, and then worked as a writer and editor for Business Week and a reporter for Newsday.  But sadly, what really qualified her to write this memoir was losing her husband to cancer while she was in her early 40s. After experiencing widowhood and researching the American way of grieving, she remarried and lives in New York City.

What is this book about?

Becky Aikman felt she was too young and too contemporary-minded to behave like a traditional widow, but nevertheless, that is what she was. Her book is a memoir of how she coped in unconventional ways with the sadness and dislocation that losing her husband brought to her life, and how, after remarrying, she and a group of five widows around her age came together as friends to navigate their way in a world they never expected to enter so young.

Becky was the group leader. The others included a mother of two who was in the process of divorcing her alcoholic husband when he succumbed; another who struggling to cope; a tough lawyer; a businesswoman with two kids whose husband died in a sporting accident and a housewife who discovered her husband’s suicide. They met once a month for a year and learned how to live again.

Why you’ll like it:

Aikman writes with compassion and humor about the highly emotional peaks and valleys these women experienced, and her account is valuable and comforting to women who have gone through this sadness and to those who fear it may come their way. Here is what she told an interviewer about her book:

“Losing someone close to you has to be one of life’s most universal experiences, but it wasn’t until it happened to me at a relatively young age that I realized our culture doesn’t provide much guidance about how to reinvent yourself afterward. I hoped that by joining with other young widows, we could lighten the task by facing this daunting transition together.

“I had joined a traditional support group before, but the goal seemed to be to sit in a circle and talk about how sad we were. And there weren’t even any snacks! So I put together more of a renegade group, looking to the future, and focused on doing, not talking. Although we did wind up talking our heads off, too, we also cooked together, volunteered, invited widowers to meet us. We went through the family home of one of the women when she was packing up to move. We even went lingerie shopping together when some of the women started to look for love again. Ultimately, we took a transforming trip to a place none of us had visited before. Along the way, we shared a few tears, but a lot more laughter.”

What others are saying:

“Compelling….Along with the stories of six remarkably resilient and admirable women (ranging from an entrepreneur to a housewife), the book offers an arresting analysis of the literature of grief….A compassionate, inspirational and deeply personal read, “Saturday Night Widows” is relevant for a wider audience than the grieving.  This book is for anyone who has faced adversity but refuses to let it define them,” says BookPage.

“For those who are ready to emerge from the darkness of bereavement, Aikman’s book defines five new phases – Bonding, Laughing, Dating, Traveling and Buying Lacy Underwear.  “Saturday Night Widows” should become required reading at support groups everywhere,” says Newsday.

Kirkus Reviews says: “How to cope with tragedy with the help of good friends.  “I didn’t seem to fit anyone’s definition of a proper widow, least of all my own,” writes former Newsday writer Aikman, “you know, the Ingmar Bergman version, gloomy, pathetic, an all-around, ongoing downer.” Five years after her husband died …the author realized she wasn’t ready to quit living just yet and surmised that there must be others just like her. She gathered together five other women, all unknown to each other, and they formed a support group–not just to move past their grief, but hopefully, on to new and richly fulfilling lives. Meeting once a month for a year, “on Saturday night, the most treacherous shoal for new widows, where untold spirits have sunk into gloom,” the group tried cooking together, going to an art museum, a day at a spa and other activities. Engaging and entertaining but not maudlin, Aikman shows a side of life that many readers probably don’t think about. A compassionate narrative about how one group of friends helped each other thrive after the deaths of their spouses.”

When is it available?

The Downtown Hartford Public Library and its Camp Field and Goodwin branches have copies of this book.

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