Even though I’ve finished working on the manuscript for my little Widow WIP (hurrah!), I’m definitely still reading books in the genre. Saturday Night Widows by Becky Aikman is billed as a ‘memoir’ but I have to agree with many of the reviewers in that it seems as though Ms. Aikman pitched a book idea and then decided on her group after. This was less an organic story of women who have suffered great tragedy (which they did) and more ‘the publisher gave me an advance, so I better find some dynamic characters.’ While I did appreciate the hardship for each of the women, as well as the triumphs in a difficult time, I thought Ms. Aikman was a strange choice for a narrator. Bridging between memoir and outsider/commentator, the book never seemed to find its voice.
In reading the reviews and comments, I was happy to see that this voice touched a lot of widows and brought them happiness or a story that they could relate to. However, the critiques brought up some interesting points I am considering for my own novel. Many of the readers had issue that this group of widows were somewhat removed from the reality of what many others who have lost a spouse had to go through (crippling medical bills, figuring out who will look after children). While my novel doesn’t quite side step this issue, I could do with a bit more grounding of my character. While my protagonist isn’t whipping off to the Galapagos, she does have a considerable amount of time off (which I’m hoping is justified by a healthy insurance policy and the – spoiler – sale of her house). While I figured I’d made her life difficult enough by killing off her husband, maybe there are other elements I can bring in to make her more realistic.
Additionally, when the widows (slight spoiler) make a trip to Morocco, I had some issue with the presentation of the tour. Having lived in the Middle East for nearly seven years, I hate when pop culture (I’m looking at you Sex in the City 2) wants to focus on the ‘otherness’ of ‘exotic’ locations. No. Just no. And please stop. The cities I’ve lived in (Dubai, Doha, Abu Dhabi) are places like anywhere else in the world. People work. They raise families. Albeit, it is against the backdrop of absolute monarchies and a Muslim state, but these things are not worth dwelling on. I appreciate that the group in the book met with Muslim widows, but I wish it had been done with a less ‘look how different they are’ eye. Of course they are different. Being a widow in New York City versus Morocco is going to lead to heaps of differences.
And finally, Ms. Aikman, what is really so wrong with your group calling themselves the Blossoms? I feel like your editor should have cut out any of
your constant digs at the name for your group. These are your girls. Way to represent.
For those who enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love – I think this book would suit you. Read into that however you want.