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

( 9 )

Overview

Six marriages, six heartbreaks, one shared beginning.

   In her forties – a widow, too young, too modern to accept the role – Becky Aikman struggled to make sense of her place in an altered world.  In this transcendent and infectiously wise memoir, she explores surprising new discoveries about how people experience grief and transcend loss and, following her own remarriage, forms a group with five other young widows to test...
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Saturday Night Widows: The Adventures of Six Friends Remaking Their Lives

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Overview

Six marriages, six heartbreaks, one shared beginning.

   In her forties – a widow, too young, too modern to accept the role – Becky Aikman struggled to make sense of her place in an altered world.  In this transcendent and infectiously wise memoir, she explores surprising new discoveries about how people experience grief and transcend loss and, following her own remarriage, forms a group with five other young widows to test these unconventional ideas.  Together, these friends summon the humor, resilience, and striving spirit essential for anyone overcoming adversity.

   Meet the Saturday Night Widows: ringleader Becky, an unsentimental journalist who lost her husband to cancer; Tara, a polished mother of two, whose husband died in the throes of alcoholism after she filed for divorce; Denise, a widow of just five months, now struggling to get by; Marcia, a hard-driving corporate lawyer and something of a grown-up tomboy; Dawn, an alluring self-made entrepreneur whose husband was killed in a sporting accident, leaving two small children behind; and Lesley, a housewife who returned home one day to find that her husband had committed suicide.

   The women meet once a month, and over the course of a year, they strike out on ever more far-flung adventures, learning to live past the worst thing they thought could happen.  They share emotional peaks and valleys – dating, parenting, moving, finding meaningful work, and reinventing themselves – while turning traditional thinking about loss and recovery upside down.  Through it all runs the story of Aikman's own journey through grief and her love affair with a man who tempts her to marry again.  In a transporting story of what friends can achieve when they hold each other up, Saturday Night Widows is a rare book that will make you laugh, think, and remind yourself that despite the utter unpredictability and occasional tragedy of life, it is also precious, fragile, and often more joyous than we recognize.

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  • Saturday Night Widows
    Saturday Night Widows  

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post - Reeve Lindbergh
…Aikman is…thoroughly familiar with the special anguish of younger widows, and her hard-earned understanding, piercing humor and superb writing skill make this book about grief and recovery an unexpected delight, rich with wisdom and laughter…This is more than a warmhearted and entertaining book on a difficult subject. The spirit of Saturday Night Widows bursts the stereotype of glum, mournful widowhood with the energy of a pent-up thirst for life. It carries the real sorrow and pain of a terrible human experience, but it also moves relentlessly and joyfully into the current of ongoing adventure.
Publishers Weekly
Hoping to shatter the myth of the widow as a black-clad elderly lady of perpetual sorrows, New York Newsday reporter Aikman resolved to organize her own group of “renegade widows” and record their spirited monthly meetings as an unscientific grief study framed within her cautious memoir of having lost her own husband. Widowed in her late 40s when her husband (older by 16 years) died after a long bout with cancer, Aikman rejected the defeatist litany of the usual widows’ support group, made up of much older women and dictated by the traditional five stages of grief codified by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, which Aikman dismisses, with some scientific basis, as “a bunch of hooey.” The group of five women she gathered were closer to her age, and despite being at different points in their widowhood, remarkably like Aikman, all apparently white, educated, attractive, upper middle-class women with jobs and nice homes or apartments in the New York metropolitan area. Occasionally they met at a restaurant or art gallery, spent a weekend at a spa, shopped for lingerie, and eventually took a daring trip together to Morocco. All the women had complicated stories of their husbands’ death, feelings of guilt and insecurity, and more or less healthy libidos. Indeed, dating and finding new partners prove the leitmotif, especially for the author, who had remarried a year before she even organized the group. As a result, the work feels stifled and lacking emotional drive, resulting in a kind of detached, academic tome. (Jan.)
Kirkus Reviews
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 after a long bout with cancer, 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. In this debut memoir, Aikman brings together the sad yet optimistic stories of these women, who were widowed at far too early an age. Faced with paying mortgages on their own, raising small children or not having someone to eat dinner with, these women managed to move beyond the initial shock and were ready to take new steps toward a different way of being. 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.
From the Publisher
A Pulpwood Queen Book Club Selection of 2013

“[Aikman’s] hard-earned understanding, piercing humor and superb writing skill make this book about grief and recovery an unexpected delight, rich with wisdom and laughter.” – Washington Post

“[An] engaging, life-affirming story.” – San Francisco Chronicle

“A beautifully written and sometimes humorous study of loss and the power of friendship…. Though they mourn, sometimes with raw, soul-shaking honesty, the six women refuse to be defined by widowhood and give us lessons in joy and resilience — and art, travel and lingerie-shopping — that apply whatever one’s life stage or marital status.” – Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Their stories of loss are touching, and the wisdom they gain is a testament to the durability of the human spirit.” – People

“[Aikman] and five other young widows reenter the world of the living, laughing, and – gulp – dating, all the while sharing frank talk, insight, and hope from the trenches." – Good Housekeeping

“Aikman’s memoir is an Eat, Pray, Love for widows, and her voice is as companionable as Elizabeth Gilbert’s….Saturday Night Widows should become required reading at support groups everywhere.” – Newsday

“Often desperate, sometimes feisty, partly hilarious, and warm as a fleecy blanket, Saturday Night Widows is a surprisingly feel-good, girl-bonding, which-role-will-Meryl-Streep-play-in-the-movie kind of a book. And I loved it….It’s sad, it’s happy, and, in fact, once you start Saturday Night Widows, you won’t be able to part with it.” – Terri Schlichenmeyer, Independent News

“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.” – BookPage

“What should be depressing – six real-life young(ish) widows – is instead joyous and life-affirming without losing its edge.” – Family Circle, Momster blog

Saturday Night Widows is a brilliant read that will be enlightening whether you have experienced the loss of a loved one, or know someone who has. It is brave, it’s funny, it’s informative and it’s real life at its best and at its worst.” – Times Record News

“A story of loss and resilience, of sadness and starting over, of tragedy and endurance and of bravely seeking out the sunlight despite the gathering clouds.”
Winnipeg Free Press

“Throughout her tragic tale, the widows speak through Becky, rendering deep and sincere accounts….Readers learn what it means to be left behind and how one must answer the questions that remain….More than anything, Becky leaves readers with the best remedy for overcoming loss – move forward, living and loving without trepidation.” – The Weekender

“A spirited, insightful memoir about a group of young widows who gather together once a month to cheer each other on and have fun.” – Shelf Awareness

“Aikman tells this life-affirming tale with compassion and candor.” – Booklist (starred review)

“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.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Can six disparate women who’ve just suffered unimaginable and premature loss find wit, irony, strength, and growth with each other?  Becky Aikman's Saturday Night Widows proves it in a laugh-inducing, page-turning way.  It's like The Help.  Female bonding – a subject we thought we knew – gets a delicious, heartwarming overhaul, and you, the reader, didn't see it coming.  Lucky you!”
Sheila Weller, author of the New York Times bestseller Girls Like Us

“It’s the spirit of a book that makes you love it.  And the spirit here, Becky Aikman’s spirit, is tough, honest, funny, smart, and generous to the world – all the equipment one needs when dealing with grief.  One would not wish to qualify for the widows’ club, but reading about it is heartening.”
Roger Rosenblatt, author of Kayak Morning and Making Toast

“For anyone who has ever loved, lost, and relied on the companionship of women, Saturday Night Widows is a gem of a read that will affirm the power of friendship, new beginnings, and the ability of the human spirit to survive and thrive.  I cheered on each of these women as they faced their own darkest moments and looked to the power of sisterhood and shared experience to remake their futures.” – Lee Woodruff, author of Those We Love Most and In an Instant

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307590435
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/22/2013
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 708,411
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.28 (h) x 1.18 (d)

Meet the Author

A graduate of the School of Journalism at Columbia University, Becky Aikman was a writer and editor for Business Week and a reporter for Newsday.  She lives in New York City.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

I plopped a sad glob of guacamole into an exquisite black Art Deco bowl, and I knew. The guacamole would not be right.

In fact, now I was sure, none of the food would be right. Potluck indeed. Too insecure about my cooking to prepare the dinner myself, I had asked everyone to tramp through the January cold with a dish. Now I didn't know what would turn up--sodden casseroles, gluey bean dip, goopy guacamole. Oh, right, the goopy guacamole was mine, the same guacamole that once came in last in a family guacamole-making contest. And my family originated in Scotland. Worse, I had run out of time and left out the jalapeño, and I had forgotten the cilantro completely. And possibly the lime. So the guacamole, at least, would not be right. This party would be lost.

The room would not be right, either. I could see that now, as I placed the bowl on a side table next to the couch and straightened up to scope out the scene. Denise had offered to host in her Upper West Side apartment, one of those classic 1920s buildings with French doors and endless bookshelves and rooms the size of Stockholm. It was the most convenient location for all of us. But now, after arriving early and waiting around for everyone else, I was sure that the living room would not be right for our purpose, the layout a nightmare, too spaced out for any real intimacy. There was a couch, backed up against the wall on one side, facing one lonely armchair along the other. I could picture it now, five of them, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder along that couch, like patients in a waiting room, waiting for bad news, and me in that chair, like Jonathan without his five stages of grief to fall back on, wondering whatever had possessed me to plan this evening.

The people wouldn't be right, either. They were strangers, a real grab bag. I was the only unifying factor. Me. They'd each met me, just once. Some of them twice. I'd collected them haphazardly by asking around, consulting friends and friends of friends. Only now, as Denise was dressing in the bedroom and I plunked down on that couch, sinking, sinking, it began to hit me: These women had practically nothing in common. The youngest was thirty-nine, the oldest fifty-seven. One was a blunt, scary-successful lawyer, one a chatty homemaker, and every postfeminist option in between. Some lived in the city, some in the suburbs. Some had children, some did not.

I reviewed their names in my head, hoping not to botch the introductions: Denise, Dawn, Marcia, Lesley, and Tara. Why had I invited them? There was only one thing they had in common, and that was not the sort of thing guaranteed to light a fire under a party: Every one of them had become a widow in the last couple of years. And that was definitely not right. That was not right at all.

What was I thinking? Why had I tried to orchestrate what would surely be a social debacle on the scale of . . . well, getting kicked out of my widows' support group? I tried to remind myself that this evening had grown out of an idea that hadn't seemed so misguided until a few minutes ago, an idea that grew out of my own confusion and pain and rebuilding when I too became a widow, and what I had learned from all that. What I still hoped to learn.

The idea was pretty straightforward. I would invite these five women, five young widows, to join me once a month for a year. We would meet on Saturday night, the most treacherous shoal for new widows, where untold spirits have sunk into gloom. We would do something together that we enjoyed, starting small--this dinner would certainly qualify--and ending big, maybe a faraway trip. By the end, we would test my theory that together...

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Interviews & Essays

A conversation with Becky Aikman author of Saturday Night Widows

What gave you the idea of forming your own widows' support group?

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.

What kinds of things did the group do 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.

How did you put the group together? Did their differences create conflict?

My process for finding the other women, mostly by asking around, couldn't have been more random. Then when I introduced everybody the first time, I thought, "Wow, did I make a mistake." It was a crazy mismatch of personalities. All we had in common was that each woman had suffered through a tragedy that had turned her life upside down. I was afraid that this was going to be one sad story, snacks or no snacks. But instead, it turned into an adventure story, not only the adventures we shared, but the adventures each of us encountered as we navigated our way through incredible changes.

Did the group help you, too?

When I started the group, I viewed myself as the journalist who would chronicle our story. I had remarried four years after my husband died, shortly before the group's first meeting. But my grief was still fresh, and I was coping with all the upheaval of trying to cobble together a new life, with a new career, new husband, new stepdaughter, new home, and new dog. I began to rely on the example of the group, and its good, old-fashioned girlfriend advice, for how to put a new life together and keep it in balance with my memories from the past.

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Reading Group Guide

1. When Becky first convenes her group of “renegade widows,” she worries that they won’t feel a bond because their personalities are so different. Which is more important in forging friendships, similar personalities or shared experiences?

2. Becky and the other Saturday Night Widows hold preconceptions about how they would live after losing their husbands. How do they reconsider those assumptions over the course of the story?

3. How do you think you would proceed if you lost someone close to you? Did your own views change as the story progressed?

4. Becky’s visit to psychological researchers introduces her to the idea that there can be more to grief than sadness and pain. Grief can be a process of finding comfort, she is told. “The process can even bring new insight and new joy.” Are these ideas illustrated in Becky’s journey, and in the journeys of the others in her group?

5. Saturday Night Widows is a true story. What storytelling techniques does Becky use to integrate the narrative of the women’s lives and the material she learned from outside research?

6. “I had been half of a whole,” Becky says of her marriage, “and now, without that other half, I wasn’t certain what was left.” She and the others question their identities now that they are alone. To what extent are we defined by the people we know and love? How would we be different without them?

7. The people the group encounters during the course of the story hold varying views about how widows think, act, and feel. An official from the museum suggests that the group would want to view art that depicts death and dying, while the guide Becky hires presents beautiful images like lotus blossoms because they bloom in the mud. How do you think the various characters formed their attitudes?

8. The group tries to reach some “highly invalid and unscientific conclusions” about how widows and widowers differ by inviting a group of men for an evening. What can the men and women learn from each other?

9. The women in the group often talk about feeling guilty when they make choices to move ahead in their lives. “Should you feel liberated?” Tara asks the group. “That you got a second chance? Or should you feel guilty for the sense of liberation you feel?” What is the role of guilt in their progress? Does guilt serve a purpose in recovery from loss, or is it merely destructive, inhibiting any impulse toward growth or pleasure?

10. Becky’s dream, in which she is choking on a beautiful bee and then sees her departed husband, makes her aware of the value of memory, both painful and joyful. What is the value of finding this balance after someone has died?

11. Widowhood reminds Becky of adolescence, “a time of uncertainty, of transformation, of trying on new identities.” Is this concept frightening? Does it introduce enticing possibilities?

12. The women soon learn that complications—children, careers, habits—make it harder to reinvent themselves at midlife. How do these complications alter the course of each woman’s transformation?

13. “This has made me totally fearless,” says Lesley. “Because the worst thing that could happen has already happened.” Does an awareness of mortality affect the attitudes and decisions of the women in the group?

14. Dawn would like to remarry. “I want my life to be settled!” she says. “No more uncertainty!” Tara resists marriage, saying, “I’m trying to appreciate the lack of knowing.” This tension between seeking certainty and embracing the unknown is present for all the women, not only in matters of love. Which way would you lean?

15. When Becky meets a new man, she explains that she is afraid of involvement. “Maybe I am a coward,” she tells him. “But cowards are safe.” How does falling in love differ for someone experiencing it for the first time versus someone suffering from a devastating loss, whether through death or a broken relationship?

16. Becky takes two trips to places she has never visited before—one on her own, on the water to the Galapagos Islands, and one with the group, through a desert. What contributions do new experiences, including travel, make to her recovery?

17. Would you treat someone who has lost a spouse differently after reading Saturday Night Widows?

18. The book begins with a sad time in the characters’ lives. By the end, how did it make you feel?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 20, 2013

    Loved the book and highly recommend it to all widows. I just be

    Loved the book and highly recommend it to all widows. I just became a widow 6 months ago and I could not put the book down. It helped me understand some of the feelings I am going thru and to find out that others have gone through the same thing. Thank you Becky Aikman for writing this book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 29, 2013

    Three stars may be an unfair rating, as the book is well written

    Three stars may be an unfair rating, as the book is well written, entertaining, and has, at least in the first 80 pages, some useful information on widowhood and grieving. The concept of a widows' group apart from the all too common support groups (I briefly belonged to one whose purpose seemed to be to find the member who could out-crisis and out-mourn everyone). It is a four star book if you are a widow who is rather cosmopolitan, lives near a large city, and has expendable income.I found the concentration on finding a man overwhelmed the rest of the problems of these widows. Little attention was paid to the details of new home, children's reactions, etc. The book reads like a novel and at that is entertaining.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 26, 2013

    Love, love it!!! I purchased one for my NOOK and found it hard

    Love, love it!!! I purchased one for my NOOK and found it hard to put down, Going to buy hardcover for my hairdresser who is a widow over 3 years and afraid to date. Being a widow is hard at any stage and this book is perfect to sort out your feelings and realize you are NORMAL!!!!! Highly recommend this on so many levels.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 3, 2013

    Important, upbeat and inspiring

    A friend who had lost her husband recommended it, and I was intrigued by the title, so I overcame my hesitation and perhaps even fear--after all, I didn't want to tempt fate--and read this. The loss was difficult--but the overcoming was powerful, and the life lessons are applicable to all of us. Frankly, we will lose people. And most of us will lose our husbands. I know you can't prepare, but this did help me trust there would be an 'after'. And most of all I value the idea of stretching ourselves, of trying new things, moving forward into an unknown and not always chosen future, with grace and strength and joy. Well written and valuable--I recommend it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2013

    This book was exactly what I needed, a support group in the priv

    This book was exactly what I needed, a support group in the privacy of my home, while dealing with my husband's sudden death. I am now reading it for the third time. Finding myself, like them, without any widows in my circle, it provided the knowledge and comfort that the myriad of thought, feelings, crazy suggestions from friends are all very...normal in this situation. I am still working from our shared home office, and I pick up the book to be with friends who understand what the process might take, and confirming that there are just no time limits on any of it.

    The book dissects the different women's personalities, presenting differently depending on the situation. So well done, that somewhere in the molding of characters, I found myself, not like any single woman there, but pieces of them all. Tough, lonely, presenting a strong front to the world, but crying in private; wanting a relationship, knowing I had had the best partner I could imagine, and maybe not wanting a lifelong partner ever again. Most importantly, their honesty, humor, and dedication to having a good life is the encouragement I return to. Life can be great even after something like this, and I don't need to feel guilty every time I have fun. Or flirt. Or travel. Or say no, not interested.

    I will continue to recommend this book to everyone who begins to lift their head in relief that one days is finally easier than the last. Before that, it might be too raw. Thank you all for sharing the intimate moments of your journey.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2013

    I recommend this book

    It is funny,sad and poignant. I cried and laughed. I think it was a great read.

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    Posted February 22, 2013

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    Posted February 28, 2013

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