When it comes to “grief reading,” I tend to lean towards the more funny (but real) stories, rather than self-help books. They can be fiction or non-fiction...it doesn’t really matter to me. I’m hooked as long as the story is readable and the character or writer is someone I can relate to. The bottom line is...there are times when I get tired of reading about how I should be handling my grief and would rather read a story that makes me feel less alone in the craziness I now call “life.”
The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted was that book for me. As I was reading it, I thought, “This is just like Good Grief with a little Under the Tuscan Sun mixed in!” This comparison was written in many other reviews, something that I’m sure Bridget Asher (aka, Julianna Baggott...Asher is her pen name) may be a little tired of hearing. But it’s true. Just like Good Grief, the widow in the story (Heidi) is funny, quirky, and relatable. She and her late husband seem like the couple that everyone wishes they knew. And just like Under the Tuscan Sun, she takes on a remodeling job (this time in France) and learns a lot about herself during the process.
For someone who is either lost in a book or watching HGTV...this was the perfect mix for me.
Many of us have read Good Grief and I don’t know about you...but it amazed me how Lolly Winston could write a piece of fiction about being a widow that just seemed so real. The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted is much the same way. I looked up Ms. Baggott’s bio and she’s not widowed. She’s happily married and living in Florida. But she writes things like:
“...these were my fears. As many versions of Henry that I lost, I was losing his version of me. I loved that version – the one he invented....Where had those versions of Heidi gone? Were they lost forever?”
And I have never read anything so true.
The main “widow” difference between the two books is that we meet Heidi when she is two years into her journey. Although she seems to have a wonderful and understanding family, there is that hint of “she should be moving forward a little faster” that we have all experienced from someone outside our grief circle. Heidi is also a mother to an 8-year-old son who, upon his father’s death, develops a little OCD and is constantly afraid of coming into contact with any unwanted germs. Heidi seems to be aware that there is something she “should” do about it (there’s that dreaded word again)...that there is something she “should” be doing about a lot of things. But she’s just too overwhelmed with life to figure it out.
Anyone else been there??
Now, I realize that going to France and remodeling a four bedroom house may not be in the cards for most of us. And there may be certain parts of the story that are not just like your own. But there are so many words, sentences, and paragraphs that will make you stop and slowly breathe out, “Yes. Yes. That’s exactly what it’s like.”
“I loved his body – this physical shape that carried his soul, this body that I never got to kiss goodbye, that I never saw again. Not even in my dreams about Henry, which were always strangely bureaucratic. He would be stepping out of a squad car being returned to me while some voice-over narration explained that he wasn’t really dead. It was simply a clerical error. The dreams always ended before he reached me. He was gone. Gone. I used to beg to have him back, pleading God, but here now, I wanted simply to be allowed to touch his skin with the tips of my fingers. If I asked for just this one small thing, did I have more a chance? Could I be allowed to have just that?”
I hear ya, sister.
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© Catherine Tidd 2011