When Sophie Stanton is widowed at thirty-six, instead of cycling through the typical five stages of grief, she careens through fifteen: Denial, Oreos, Anger, Depression, Escrow, Ashes, Lust, Bargaining, Waitressing, Mentoring, Dating, Baking, Acceptance, Goodwill, and Thanksgiving.
In a high-achiever age when women are expected to be good at everything, Sophie wants desperately to be a good widow. A graceful, composed, Jackie Kennedy kind of widow. But Sophie is more the Jack Daniels type. Self medicating with cartons of ice cream for breakfast, and showing up at work in her bathrobe and bunny slippers, soon she's lost not only her husband, but also her job, her house, and her waistline. In Sophie's words: “The Funny thing about rock bottom is there's stuff underneath. You think, This is it: It's all uphill from here! Then you discover the escalator goes down one more floor to another level of bargain basement junk.” With a darkly comic edge Sophie manages to start over, and ultimately she discovers her own happily-ever-after.
Good Grief was a New York Times best seller, and a #1 Booksense pick for March/April, 2004. It was also the #1 Booksense pick for paperbacks in the summer of 2005. The film rights have been optioned by Marc Platt, at Universal Studios.
Publishers Weekly, starred review
“‘The grief is up already. It is an early riser, waiting with its gummy arms wrapped around my neck, its hot, sour breath in my ear.’ Sophie Stanton feels far too young to be a widow, but after just three years of marriage, her wonderful husband, Ethan, succumbs to cancer. With the world rolling on, unaware of her pain, Sophie does the only sensible thing: she locks herself in her house and lives on what she can buy at the convenience store in furtive midnight shopping sprees. Everything hurts—the telemarketers asking to speak to Ethan, mail with his name on it, his shirts, which still smell like him. At first Sophie is a ‘good’ widow, gracious and melancholy, but after she drives her car through the garage door, something snaps; she starts showing up at work in her bathrobe and hiding under displays in stores. Her boss suggests she take a break, so she sells her house and moves to Ashland, Ore., to live with her best friend, Ruth, and start over. Grief comes along, too—but with a troubled, pyromaniac teen assigned to her by a volunteer agency, a charming actor dogging her and a new job prepping desserts at a local restaurant, Sophie is forced to explore the misery that has consumed her. Throughout this heartbreaking, gorgeous look at loss, Winston imbues her heroine and her narrative with the kind of grace, bitter humor and rapier-sharp realness that will dig deep into a reader's heart and refuse to let go. Sophie is wounded terribly, but she's also funny, fresh and utterly believable. There's nary a moment of triteness in this outstanding debut. ”
Copyright © Reed Business Information
From USA Today
"This spring, the novel that might sate the appetite for human drama is
Lolly Winston's Good Grief. Winston's debut novel deals with the
death of Ethan, a smart, young, funny software designer who had lymphoma. He
leaves his wife, Sophie, a childless widow at 36. The novel includes scenes
of genuine humor, albeit the kind of pitch-black wit with which people who
have experienced real pain are familiar. Good Grief is both very
funny and very sad.....By the end of Good Grief, Sophie is able to
pat her once-loathed mother-in-law's hand and tell her "it's okay." But this
debut novel is way beyond OK. It is outstanding."
—Deirdre Donahue, USA TODAY
Copyright © USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc
“During the first few months of Sophie Stanton's
life as a widow, she goes to work dressed in her bathrobe, finds herself
sobbing in the produce section of her local grocery store and is crippled
with fear by the pattern on her shower curtain.
It is safe to say she is deep in mourning over her husband, Ethan, who died of cancer, leaving behind a 30-something wife with no idea how to move past such a loss and the deep loneliness it has left in its wake.
‘Now I understand why rock stars wreck hotel rooms,’ thinks Sophie as she stands alone in her kitchen, contemplating smashing every dish she owns. ‘To shatter the relentless stillness of a room.’
Good Grief (Warner, $18, 344 pages, ISBN 0446533041), the truly extraordinary debut novel by journalist Lolly Winston, trails Sophie through the first year of her widowhood. But this novel is anything but textbook Grief Recovery 101. It's different, because Winston has the nerve to admit that recovering from the death of a loved one is a ridiculous thing to have to do, and that it often has moments of humor mixed in with all the bad stuff. In Good Grief, we see Sophie through every messy stage, from denial to anger.
At first, she functions at the most primary level, sleeping for days and stuffing herself with Oreos until her mouth hurts. From there, Sophie moves on to bargaining with God. Maybe there was a clerical error, she thinks. Maybe the angel of death grabbed the wrong guy, and Ethan will be returned as soon as they straighten things out Upstairs. Finally realizing this isn't going to happen, and determined to make a fresh start away from the ghosts of the home she shared with Ethan, Sophie trades her soulless cubicle job in Silicon Valley for a fresh start in Ashland, Oregon, home of Shakespearean festivals and hippies of all ages.
Once there, she rents an overpriced but charming house and sets about her new life, which at first consists mainly of occasional panic attacks and a job prepping vegetables at a tony local restaurant. She spends her days at work and her nights cuddling with Ethan's old clothes.
But slowly, she settles into her new life. She takes on a teenage girl in desperate need of guidance and works her way up the chain of command at the restaurant. Then she meets a possibly too-good-to-be-true actor who just has to go ahead and complicate her purposefully simple existence.
Good Grief is strikingly original—and stunningly brave in its honest portrayal of moving on, warts and all. Winston acknowledges that the real mourning process is not a Jackie Kennedy photo: a perfect, brave widow wearing a wrinkle-free outfit as she says a final farewell to her husband. The details may vary, but in real life, mourning is sloppy and filled with setbacks and anger, too many calories and too little sleep.
And, yes, full of humor. Winston gives us such a lively gift of a character in Sophie, who, after her grief-stricken stupor starts to dissipate, turns out to be a touchingly normal person, alternately neurotic and strong. She worries that she'll betray her dead husband if she sleeps with another man. She finds the nerve to open her own bakery without ever having run a business in her life. In short, she gathers her life back together in a way that is both triumphant and unforgettable.
Good Grief marks the arrival of an exciting and ambitious new voice. Winston's story sparkles with wit and sympathy, but her musings on what it means to really live—even in the shadow of death—are the true reward here.”
—Amy Scribner writes from Washington state
Copyright © 2004 ProMotion, inc.
Can a novel about a depressed young widow, a troubled teenage pyromaniac and
a mother-in-law with Alzheimer's disease be just the book you'd want to curl
up with at night after a long, hard day?
Good Grief (Warner Books, 336 pp., $18), the debut novel of Northern California writer Lolly Winston, is just that: deep without being dense, sad yet funny, a story that explores human misery without leaving you feeling miserable. It's fitting that the cover shows a pair of fuzzy, bunny-shaped bedroom slippers, because this is a story that provides that same kind of comfort.
—Jill Wolfson, Special to the Mercury News
Copyright © San Jose Mercury News
Sophie Stanton goes from newlywed to widow in just three short years of
marriage, her competent and confident persona replaced by an Oreo-munching,
robe-and-slipper-clad zombie. Overwhelmed by grief and despair, out of a
job, home, and clothes that fit, Sophie leaves her high-pressure,
memory-laden Silicon Valley lifestyle for a laid-back Oregon village. In her
metamorphosis from bereft widow to beguiling woman, Sophie is aided by an
unlikely ally: Crystal, a street-smart but emotionally damaged teenager she
befriends as part of a "Big Sisters" program. If there are stages to the
mourning process, Winston gets them all down perfectly, communicating
Sophie's misery with a poignant empathy. Those who have experienced such
loss will surely recognize themselves in some part of Sophie's
transformative journey; those who haven't will hope to demonstrate as much
grit, wit, and charm as Winston's lovable heroine. Tackling a difficult
subject in a debut novel is a gutsy move, and Winston pulls it off with just
the right blend of heartfelt humor and heartwarming humanity.
Copyright © American Library Association
“A bright and terrifically funny writer... With generous and welcome doses of wit, compassion, and originality, Winston deftly balances the inherent sorrow of life with effervescent humor... Good job. Great book.” —Miami Herald
“ Sophie's funny, lopsided view of the world gives emotional depth to
the story, and it is what makes GOOD GRIEF stand out from other
novels that tackle this enormous subject. Winston does not shy away from the
pain of mourning, but she reminds us that we can still be funny, sarcastic,
aware and smart, even when we are brokenhearted.”
—Ann Hood, Washington Post Book World
“This deeply felt novel delivers laughs as well as tears and may even
become a part of you...GOOD GRIEF is very good indeed.”
—People (three and a half stars)
“Good Grief is one of the best first novels I have ever read,
and anyone who thinks there is nothing new to read about loss, pain, love,
humor and ultimate renewal, should grab this book now. I will
remember it for a very long time.”
—Anne Rivers Siddons, bestselling author of Low Country and Islands
“Good Grief is a lighthearted and amusing novel about loss,
grief, and the therapeutic effects of baking. I love Sophie Stanton, and I
want her recipes.”
—Audrey Niffenegger, bestselling author of The Time Traveler's Wife
“In Good Grief, Lolly Winston writes with extraordinary humor
and grace about the first year of Sophie Stanton's widowed life. Sophie,
whom I'd like to claim as my new best friend, cuddles up close to us —
she exposes the depth of her pain and the wild reaches of her wit. She's as
real of a character as I've met in fiction in a long time. The book is a
delightful read and Winston is a knock-out writer.”
—Ellen Sussman, author of On a Night Like This
“Lolly Winston had me from page one, really, from the first paragraph.
She made me feel the grief that Sophie Stanton suffered in losing her soul
mate/lover/friend/spouse. I wanted to put my arms around her, hold her, cry
with her and share a bottle of wine. She's a wonderful character in Good
Grief and now she's my friend.”
—Billie Letts, bestselling author of Where the Heart Is, Honk and Holler Opening Soon
“There are thousands of books about looking for love, but not many
about living through tragedy. This witty, big-hearted novel about a smart,
funny young woman rebuilding her life and recreating a family after her
husband's untimely death fills that gap beautifully.”
—Jennifer Weiner, bestselling author of Good In Bed and In Her Shoes
“Love and grief are inseparable in life, and they shimmer in Sophie
Stanton, the vivid character in Good Grief. With tender wit
and deep insight, Lolly Winston has written a radiant novel.”
—Luanne Rice, bestselling author of The Secret Hour
“Witty and touching, a book to treasure.”
—Jennifer Crusie, bestselling author of Bet Me
“I think Lolly is going to be a big star and I truly, madly,
deeply loved her book. They say there is no right way to grieve but I
reckon Lolly Winston's Sophie gets as close as you humanly can. In my
experience, there's no loss in the world that can't be eased by one's own
bodyweight in Oreos and a week in pajamas so it's no wonder I devoured this
book, tears of laughter mixing with tears of sorrow, over and over again,
often in the space of a single page. I wish I'd had this book on hand when
my Dad died, or my dog, or my pot plant for that matter. It's not just good
grief, it's great grief.”
—Sarah-Kate Lynch, author of Blessed Are the Cheesemakers
“Lolly Winston's marvelous quirky characters know the joys of love,
the sorrows of loss, and the enduring comfort of cheesecake. This
enchanting novel shines with humor and wisdom. But, best of all, at its
center beats a great big generous heart. I adored this book!”
—Mameve Medwed, author of The End of an Error, Mail