1. Saturday Night Widows, Becky Aikman, $31. (Available at Indigo.ca and Amazon.ca)
Everyone experiences loss, but not everyone’s grieving process follows the prescribed five stages. What happens when that model isn’t a perfect fit? That’s where Becky Aikman found herself when she was widowed in her 40s. Unexpectedly given the boot from her grief-support group, Aikman convened a gathering of like-minded “misfit” widows, in the process throwing out the book on grieving and literally writing a new one. Here, Aikman shares some of her discoveries with Chatelaine.
On not wallowing: “Many might think we spent our time together crying and being sad, when in fact we spent much more time laughing and having fun. There wasn’t much room for self-pity. There was a strong feeling we wanted to move forward. This wasn’t about wallowing and sorrow — it was about the next step.”
On being resilient: “We’re so uncomfortable with the idea of death and loss that we tend to think of it as an insurmountable incident. But it’s one of the most common human experiences. I was surprised when scientists who study grief told me it’s much more typical for someone to be resilient in the face of tragedy than to be undone by it.”
On embracing all of life: “Death used to be integrated more naturally into life. The more death occurs away from home, in hospitals, mediated by institutions, the more people find it foreign and frightening. I myself had never thought much about death. So I was completely flat-footed when it entered my life. It’s one reason why I wanted to write about it.”
On letting go of guilt: “Initially I felt guilt when I experienced pleasure or acted normal. It was a tremendous relief when I discovered that if you grieve all the time it’s very hard to break free. It’s completely natural to feel the depths of sorrow, then have bursts of humour or pleasure only to feel the depths again. If you continue this way, gradually the depths become less deep.”
On the healing message of nature: “We saw a series of Chinese watercolours of lotus blossoms on a private art tour. As soon as we saw them, our connection to them was clear: They bloom even in the mud, and the idea that something beautiful can emerge from something so dark was such a powerful image for us, and it still is.”
On the right to happiness: “‘Grief is a process of finding comfort’ is a quote I clung to after speaking to George Bonanno [a professor of psychology at Columbia and author of progressive new studies on bereavement]. It was reassuring to learn that no one should be condemned to a sad life after losing someone. We have the right to work toward being happy and fulfilled throughout our lives.” — Interview by Alanna Glassman
2. The Aviator’s Wife, Melanie Benjamin, $31. (Available at Indigo.ca or Amazon.ca)
Melanie Benjamin reimagines the life of the real Anne Morrow, the woman behind Charles Lindbergh, one of America’s most famous flyers, in this moving historical novel.
Anne is an ambassador’s daughter, but, shy and retiring, she’s rarely noticed. When she unbelievably captures the attention of the first man to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, her life takes flight. Recognizing Anne’s brave spirit, Charles insists she learn to fly. She becomes the first woman licensed as a glider pilot and, with her husband, charts new territory by air. On land, the two are courted by politicians, Hollywood stars and wealthy philanthropists and become fixtures among America’s social elite. Anne is as spellbound by enigmatic “Lucky Lindy” as the adoring public and pushes her own dreams aside at even his simplest request. Eclipsed by her domineering, larger-than-life husband and back in the shadows, she soon discovers life as a married couple is far from the fairy tale she imagined. And when their celebrity takes a dark turn during one horrific night, Anne and her devotion to her husband are forever shaken.
This meticulously researched tale is as much a captivating love story as it is an essay on the complexities of marriage and how love and hate, admiration and resentment can live side by side. — Danya Cohen
3. The Comfort of Lies, Randy Susan Meyers, $29. (Available at Indigo.ca or Amazon.ca)
They never should have met. They had nothing in common — that is, until Nathan cheated on his wife, Juliette; Tia had Nathan’s baby; and Caroline adopted the little girl. Suddenly the birth of one small child connects three strangers forever. Tia believed adoption would be easy. Juliette thought she could forgive her husband’s transgressions, and Caroline hoped her natural maternal instincts would kick in, but now all of them are wondering what they were thinking. This emotional story captures your heart and makes you re-examine your own priorities. — Anna Redman
4. Autobiography of Us, Aria Beth Sloss, $29. (Available at Indigo.ca or Amazon.ca)
Coming of age in the 1960s, two friends struggle to fit in with societal norms. Alex, the vivacious beauty, is determined to become a film star, and Rebecca, quiet and bookish, wants to study medicine despite her parents’ disapproval of her ambitious career choice. A story about friendship, loss and a generation raised to be housewives but yearning for more. — Janet Ho
5. City of a Thousand Dolls, Miriam Forster, $20. (Available at Indigo.ca or Amazon.ca)
Mythical city? Check. Mind-reading cats? Check. Teen assassins? Check. Riffing on the trend of adolescent killers (The Hunger Games, Grave Mercy, Graceling) comes this lively debut centred on 16-year-old Nisha. In City of a Thousand Dolls orphaned girls are trained as musicians, scholars, courtesans and, if Nisha is right, assassins. But her suspicions are shrugged off — until some of the girls start to die. Will uncovering the city’s secrets put Nisha’s own life at risk? — Dominique Lamberton
6. The Demonologist, Andrew Pyper, $29. (Available at Indigo.ca and Amazon.ca)
A professor is hired for a mysterious but highly lucrative task. His marriage in shambles, he accepts and, young daughter in tow, heads to Venice. There, he finds a horrifying scene in an ancient house. Hours later, his daughter inexplicably throws herself off the roof of their hotel. Certain she’s not dead, he sets off in search of her, convinced he’s being shadowed by the Devil. Proper creepy. But do yourself a favour: If you love having to leave the lights on at night, check out Pyper’s earlier books — they’re even scarier. — Laurie Grassi