Monday, February 04, 2013

Saturday Night Widows by Becky Aikman

If your vision of a widow is someone in black mourning forever the loss of her husband, stuck in the past, then you'll be shocked by Becky Aikman's Saturday Night Widows: The Adventures of Six Friends Remaking Their Lives. I found it moving, refreshing, and encouraging. It's the best book I've read so far in 2013.

Becky Aikman's husband died when he was still in his forties. After twenty years of marriage, she lost her husband, her best friend, and her lover all at one time. How do you go on? Aikman even went to a support group offering information on "Moving Forward After Loss". She was ready to move forward, ready to go on with life, but the widows and widower in the group were there to relive the past, not to go on. When she was kicked out of the group, she decided she wanted to find widows with the same hope she had. She wanted to move forward, and wanted to be happy again.

It took some time, but Aikman found five other women, widows. The youngest was 39; the oldest was 57. Although they were hesitant, they agreed to her suggestion that they meet once a month, on Saturdays, to share life. As one of the women said, she was now "Totally fearless. Because the worst thing that could happen has already happened."

Aikman doesn't sugarcoat loss and grief. In fact, the book is composed of alternating chapters, some focusing on Aikman's own loss and process of grief and recovery, some discussing the study of grief, which has been confused with the process of death, and some chapters focusing on the women themselves, their individual experiences, and their processes of coping and moving on. Early on, she says of the women who would become friends, "All the women...were in the process of remaking, reinventing, and rethinking who they were and how they lived and where they lived and what they did and who they cared about and who cared about them." The six women were all different, all in different stages of their lives and their grieving, but widowhood united them, and it also gave them strength.

Saturday Night Widows is a courageous book that points out that widows are still women who crave friendship and laughter and love. Just because they lost a husband doesn't mean they lost the chance to live life to the fullest. Aikman found five women who shared the determination to move on. They shared tears and confidences and laughter over the course of the year, and they found their own strength and gift for life. Aikman's account might come as a surprise to many, who expect widows to still be in Victorian mourning for life. But, for those of us who lost husbands young, Aikman's book serves as a reminder and encouragement. There is life after death. We just have to continue to enjoy the world, and seek out the people and experiences that help us continue to live.

My personal note? Thank you to everyone in the last two years who has made me laugh. There is laughter and joy out there, and I'm grateful every day for those of you who share that with me.

Becky Aikman's website is

Saturday Night Widows: The Adventures of Six Friends Remaking Their Lives by Becky Aikman. Crown. 2013. ISBN 9780307590435 (hardcover), 337p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library Book


Book Dilettante said...

Glad you enjoyed the book!

Lesa said...

It was terrific. I'm sure I enjoyed it more than many people will because I'm widowed. But, she gives anyone quite a bit to think about.

Joe Barone said...

SATURDAY NIGHT WIDOWS sounds like it would be a good book to suggest to ministers to give to the widows they know who are ready for this kind of advice. As a retired minister, I know I was always looking for books like that. The book wouldn't be for everyone. Some people probably want the grief groups where they relive the past. But for others, this would be a great book.

You have undergone several changes in your own life. Insofar as I can tell from your blog, you have done that with courage and optimism in the midst of grief and change. As a loving spouse myself, I know that's what I would want for my wife. We even talk about these things together often.

Lesa said...

You're right, Joe. It isn't for everyone, and I told my mother that last night. It would have been fine for her and for me. She has a sister-in-law who successfully moved on, but a sister who intends to grieve the rest of her life. It would be perfect when ministers understood who to give it to.

Thank you, Joe. I like that - courage and optimism. The optimism comes first, and that helps with the courage to move forward. I'm so glad you talk about this with you wife.

Beth Hoffman said...

When I first saw this book, I was a bit intrigued. But after reading your review (which is wonderful), I'll definitely be adding this title to my list!

Anonymous said...

I loved the ARC of this and I agree that she doesn't hold back and she also shows how people grieve differently. Glad you enjoyed the book.

Karen C said...

Wonderful review, Lesa. Kudos to you for going forth with "optimism and courage"!

Lesa said...

I did enjoy this book, more than many people will, I'm sure. It's going to hit home for some of us.

caite said...

I did not like this book as much as you. In fact, while I thought much of the information about loss and grief was good, I felt the whole set up of the group was fake.

The author chose the members, rejected others who were more 'troubled' and not coping as well. They were all upper class with few money issues and little mention of their kids.
Not to mention the author was already remarried...hardly still in a state of deep grief.

Honestly, I felt set up.

Lesa said...

I guess it didn't bother me, Caite. I don't have kids,and I know the loss still affects me at times 3 years later. So, just because she had remarried didn't mean she didn't go through everything the others did. This book just isn't for everyone. I appreciated what she had to say about grief.