Lolly Winston,
Good Grief
(Time Warner, 2004)

Poor Sophie Stanton! She was married only three years when her husband died of cancer. Now, a mid-30s widow, Sophie is going through the grief process -- but not by the steps listed in the book. Her mother-in-law has somehow managed to remain composed despite the loss of a husband and her only son. Sophie, on the other hand, has been on a downward spiral and isn't sure how to put on the brakes.

This sounds like a depressing story. It is. But it is depressingly funny. I feel guilty when I laugh at the woes of others. Good Grief, a novel by Lolly Winston, made me feel guilty for about six hours as I chuckled pretty much non-stop listening to the audiobook version. An early scene where Sophie goes to work in her bathrobe and slippers and her ensuing incomprehension at being fired after barricading herself behind a wall of plants in her cubical demonstrates just how hilarious a breakdown can be!

In order to alleviate the pain of one of the most stressful situations one can go through in life -- the loss of a loved one -- Sophie pursues two different highly stressful situations: moving to another state and a career change. That course of action might not sound smart to a sane person, but Sophie isn't in her right mind. The listener will follow her life for the year following her husband's death and see her transformation back to the land of normal living. Or, perhaps I should specify: Sophie's brand of "normal" living. Along the way, she will run into a load of characters that show that no matter how crazy you think you are and how bad your life is, there are always folks who have it worse.

The title of the novel, Good Grief, can be viewed from multiple angles. As you listen to Sophie's eccentric adventures, you will surely say "good grief" to yourself wondering how she continues to go on with all that life throws her way. At the same time, while Sophie's grief might not follow the textbook pattern, you will ultimately see that the path of grief she followed was good for her.

This novel is Lolly Winston's first. She is a freelance journalist who lives in California. The last CD in the audiobook version of Good Grief contains an interview in which she explains how she has dealt with grief through the loss of loved ones in her own life. I enjoyed her sense of humor and hope she continues to write more books. But, while I enjoyed Good Grief, I have to admit that it was almost too bittersweet for me. I am not so sure I like the confusing mix of emotions in which you laugh while feeling miserable.

Amanda Foreman had the pleasure of reading Good Grief. I am not familiar with her, but the liner notes state that she has been on Felicity, Alias and Six Feet Under. Of all the characters she gets to play, my favorite is the 13-year-old, self-mutilating, fire-starting, adult-hating brat that Sophie gets involved with after she signs up for Big Sisters. I would say that Amanda sounds exactly like an angst-ridden teenage girl. To which, I'm sure she would reply, "Whatever!"

I recommend the audiobook version of Good Grief despite how it made me feel. I think Winston wrote a story that sounds more like a biograpy of a real Sophie Stanton than a fictional person. Foreman completely brings the various characters to life. I only have one other complaint and that is that the audiobook version of Good Grief is abridged. While I do not feel there were any holes in the storyline, I can't help but wonder what else I missed.

- Rambles
written by Wil Owen
published 17 October 2004

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