Just finished the book "Shelter Me" by Juliette Fay and have very conflicted feelings about it. As with most books about widowhood, either fiction or nonfiction, this one is about a young widow's FIRST YEAR following the freak accident death of her husband. Janie has a preschool son and baby daughter to solo parent. Here is the novel's main plot - Janie's husband had planned for a front porch to be built on their cape cod home as a gift to her. The building contractor shows up four months after her husband's death with the "surprise," unaware that Janie's husband had died. She decides to go ahead with the project and ends up falling in love with the builder AS WELL as her hot, sexy, troubled priest who has been making weekly grief house calls.
The crush on the priest doesn't go anywhere but the relationship with the builder progresses and by the end of the book, which looms on the one-year anniversary, Janie and the builder are a couple. Happy ending for everyone! And all tied up within that one-year grieving period.
But the fact of the matter is that I don't think Janie was really working through her grief, pain and loss. How could she when her emotions were tied up romantically with the priest and the contractor? Grief work takes such huge amounts of emotional energy. But so does falling in love and starting a relationship. Based on my own experience, I don't think the two are mutually compatible. So this part of the book wasn't believable to me. It would have been far more believable if it had occurred in the second year following the death of Janie's husband.
Did this author do any research or speak with real widows before and during the time she was writing this novel? Come to think of it, I wish there were more widows out there telling their stories about how they fell in love again. I want to hear it from a reliable source, not a fictionalized account by a woman still happily married who has not had to face the circumstances surrounding her main character.
I finished the book feeling more upset than revitalized and hopeful. Just another account depicting how we should have the pieces picked up and our lives restored (even our love lives) within that magical one-year period. During the first year I was so busy caring for my sons and trying to figure out how to navigate in a new world, there wasn't any time for even contemplating a new relationship much less starting one. That doesn't mean I wasn't lonely or missing sex/physical contact. I just had a whole heck of a lot on my plate that took priority over me dating or getting back out there.
I guess I need to remember that this is a work of fiction. But I remain serious about the request for more of the widowed community to get out there and share their stories of love and romance, including the successes and failures. I don't want pie in the sky but reality. I do want hope - but hope that is attainable because no hunky building contractor will be making house calls any time soon. And if there have been widows/ers who've found love again quickly, more power to you. But lets hear those stories too!