The Widows To Do List is a moving, thought-provoking and occasionally funny story about a recently widowed woman in her fifties as she tries to come to terms with her new status. Sally comes across as very real, which makes her easy to relate to. She mothered two children–now grown and left home–and loved her husband, but an accident took him away and left her grief stricken.
The majority of the story takes place one year after Dom’s death. Sally is managing by making a list of things to achieve, as suggested by a book on being a widow, and slowly working towards achieving each thing on the list. But Sally’s old friend Ramone, thinks the list is ridiculous and suggests some alternatives, one is to have sex as soon as possible, because a widow, having been with one man for so long, is somewhat like a virgin. It’s so long since she dated anyone that it’s like starting at the beginning again.
Sally doesn’t like being alone, but she doesn’t want to date anyone either until someone comes along who interests her, then her insecurities come out in force.
I have see the book referred to as a romantic comedy, but it’s more correctly women’s fiction. There is some romance and some comedy, but the book is not about the romance, it’s about a woman finding herself. There are funny parts–the scene where she goes into a sex shop and sees rows of willys had tears rolling down my cheeks–but overall the subject matter is reflective, at least for a woman like myself who has been married as long as Sally had. I empathised with Sally from the beginning and found myself wondering how it would feel to be alone after so long as a couple. Sally is also very much a mother and her concern for her children is something that all mothers will be able to relate to.
Ms Zia writes excellent prose with keen insight. I felt as if I was right there in the scenes, and the plot was such that, though the action was very low-key, I couldn’t wait to get back to the book to see how Sally was getting on. The success of the book largely hangs on the excellent characterisation, not just of Sally, but of the supporting cast as well, and also the sensitive portrayal of the challenges facing a widow. It lead me to wonder how much our sense of self and social standing are related to our partner.
I recommend this for married and recently widowed women. If you still have a husband, it should remind you not to take him for granted. If your husband is dead, you will find reassurance that you’re not the only one that feels the way you do.