Thursday, July 22, 2010

Book Review:: Good Grief

Sophie Stanton is a 36 year old woman whose husband, Ethan, just died after a long battle with cancer. The death, combined with a meddling mother-in-law and a stressful job, makes it nearly impossible for Sophie to keep it together and she ends up having a breakdown and going to work in her pajamas because she can't fit into any of her clothes anymore. After she loses her job and is forced to sell her house, she decides to move to Oregon to be close to her best friend.

Needing to work, she tries her hand at waitressing but is quickly demoted to kitchen duty after she spills shrimp scampi all over a customer. It's here, in the kitchen, where she discovers she's a really good baker and begins thinking about opening up her own bakery. When not working, she spends time volunteering with Big Brothers, Big Sisters and is assigned a "Little Sister" who enjoys cutting herself and starting fires. On top of all this, she's caught the eye of a local actor who can't make up his mind if he wants to be with her or not.

Okay. So it sounds totally like chick lit, I know. But it's also so much more than that. It's funny and sad at the same time. For instance, there is one part, towards the end of the book where Sophie finally decides to part with her husbands clothes that she's been carrying around in boxes for the last year. She packs them all up in his suitcases and takes them to Goodwill. When she arrives, seeing that Goodwill is closed, she leaves them behind the building.

A few hours later she receives a call from a man at a rest stop a few miles from her home. He had located her through the name in the suitcases, which had been stolen from behind the Goodwill and were now at the rest stop. When Sophie arrives, she finds her husbands suitcases had been sliced open. The would be thieves, apparently not excited by the contents, had left it all there to blow around the rest stop. I just found it heartbreaking to picture this poor woman chasing her dead husbands clothes around a seedy rest stop.

I could relate to Sophie in so many ways. There is one passage in the book that I've saved and read over and over:

"The funny thing about rock bottom is there's stuff underneath it. You think, This is it: I'm at the bottom now. It's all uphill from here! Then you discover the escalator goes down one more floor to another level of bargain-basement junk." could say I've felt that way. Recently.

After I read this book, I looked up some reviews on Goodreads to see what other people had to say about it. A lot of people liked it but thought that the ending was too neat and tidy and happily-ever-after. While I'll agree that all the loose ends were tied up a bit too nicely for my liking, I don't necessarily feel the ending was fairy tale. I don't want to give it all away, but I will say that by the end of the book Sophie still isn't completely sure of her relationship with sexy actor man, and her relationship with her mother in law changes in a way that could hardly be considered ideal. So, yes, she's in a happier place a mere year after her husbands death, but she had to work to get to that happy place. Which was what I loved so much about her. I hate it when characters just sit back and repeatedly let bad things happen to them.

As I mentioned before, this book was recommended to me by a reader (thanks so much Shannon!) and I'm so thankful it was because I probably wouldn't have picked it up on my own. I'm certain I would have looked at the cover and misjudged it as just chick lit, which is generally a category of books I can't quite get into. And I would have been missing out because this is probably one of my Top Ten favorite books of all time.


~ The Jolly Bee ~ said...

First off -- I totally judge books by their covers and I do like this one (chic lit or not). And second -- your review sold me. I'm going to request it from my library.

So true about rock bottom. I've hit what I thought was that "level" with my kids at various points, but somehow someone can also do or say or act even worse that I anticipated. (Can you tell I'm having a tough kid week? Not one of my kids is getting along with a single soul right now....I'm actually thinking of ditching them all with my husband and going to the lake alone this weekend just to get away from the bickering. Only the dog is invited to go with me).

Not Hannah said...

Wow. This review? Makes me want to read this book. I don't mind chick lit if it's GOOD chick lit--if it's WOMAN'S lit. So I'll be adding this to my list.

Lia said...

That last line definitely did it for me. That's a pretty high ranking. I'll have to check it out. Good review, too.

Shalet said...

Okay. You've convinced me. I put a copy on hold at the library. :o)

Theresa said...

Ooh... I definitely want to read this one. And I need a good book to read right now.

Tammie said...

im so glad you guys liked this review. ive had it in my "drafts" section for more than a week. i was unsure of it.

jodi: there are many times i want to choose my pets over my kids. i feel you.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tammie! Hooray, you liked it! I have gone back and read this book a couple of times and it is just as good each time. Lolly Winston has another book after Good Grief, "Happiness Sold Separately" too is a good read (I don't think as good as GG, but still good). I read they are planning a movie for the second book (with Julia Roberts directing and starring, ugh-sorry, she irks me) I SO WISH they had decided to make a movie out of GG instead, although that usually leads to disaster. Anywho, so glad you liked it. I have another to recommend, "Waiting" by Debra Ginsberg. Another one of my favorites. Happy reading! --Shannon

Dani said...

I don't mind a bit of chick lit from time to time. I'm more easy going with my books than my movies (Rudy, ahem).

This sounds interesting and I'm going to put it on "the list".

Excellent review.

Hashi said...

Thanks for visiting my blog. Want to be my buddy on goodreads?

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

This book sounds GREAT!
I have to put it on my list.

I love the quote....sadly enough I have been there!

good review Tammie.

Daphne said...

The cover would have turned me off (we've discussed our mutual dislike of chicklit), but this sounds really good, actually. Glad you liked it and reviewed it! That is a great (and all-too-apt) quote...