A graduate of the School of Journalism at Columbia University, Becky Aikman was a writer and editor for Business Week and a reporter for Newsday. She lives in New York City.
1. When Becky first convenes her group of “renegade widows,” she worries that they won’t feel a bond because their personalities are so different. Which is more important in forging friendships, similar personalities or shared experiences?
2. Becky and the other Saturday Night Widows hold preconceptions about how they would live after losing their husbands. How do they reconsider those assumptions over the course of the story?
3. How do you think you would proceed if you lost someone close to you? Did your own views change as the story progressed?
4. Becky’s visit to psychological researchers introduces her to the idea that there can be more to grief than sadness and pain. Grief can be a process of finding comfort, she is told. “The process can even bring new insight and new joy.” Are these ideas illustrated in Becky’s journey, and in the journeys of the others in her group?
5. Saturday Night Widows is a true story. What storytelling techniques does Becky use to integrate the narrative of the women’s lives and the material she learned from outside research?
6. “I had been half of a whole,” Becky says of her marriage, “and now, without that other half, I wasn’t certain what was left.” She and the others question their identities now that they are alone. To what extent are we defined by the people we know and love? How would we be different without them?
7. The people the group encounters during the course of the story hold varying views about how widows think, act, and feel. An official from the museum suggests that the group would want to view art that depicts death and dying, while the guide Becky hires presents beautiful images like lotus blossoms because they bloom in the mud. How do you think the various characters formed their attitudes?
8. The group tries to reach some “highly invalid and unscientific conclusions” about how widows and widowers differ by inviting a group of men for an evening. What can the men and women learn from each other?
9. The women in the group often talk about feeling guilty when they make choices to move ahead in their lives. “Should you feel liberated?” Tara asks the group. “That you got a second chance? Or should you feel guilty for the sense of liberation you feel?” What is the role of guilt in their progress? Does guilt serve a purpose in recovery from loss, or is it merely destructive, inhibiting any impulse toward growth or pleasure?
10. Becky’s dream, in which she is choking on a beautiful bee and then sees her departed husband, makes her aware of the value of memory, both painful and joyful. What is the value of finding this balance after someone has died?
11. Widowhood reminds Becky of adolescence, “a time of uncertainty, of transformation, of trying on new identities.” Is this concept frightening? Does it introduce enticing possibilities?
12. The women soon learn that complications—children, careers, habits—make it harder to reinvent themselves at midlife. How do these complications alter the course of each woman’s transformation?
13. “This has made me totally fearless,” says Lesley. “Because the worst thing that could happen has already happened.” Does an awareness of mortality affect the attitudes and decisions of the women in the group?
14. Dawn would like to remarry. “I want my life to be settled!” she says. “No more uncertainty!” Tara resists marriage, saying, “I’m trying to appreciate the lack of knowing.” This tension between seeking certainty and embracing the unknown is present for all the women, not only in matters of love. Which way would you lean?
15. When Becky meets a new man, she explains that she is afraid of involvement. “Maybe I am a coward,” she tells him. “But cowards are safe.” How does falling in love differ for someone experiencing it for the first time versus someone suffering from a devastating loss, whether through death or a broken relationship?
16. Becky takes two trips to places she has never visited before—one on her own, on the water to the Galapagos Islands, and one with the group, through a desert. What contributions do new experiences, including travel, make to her recovery?
17. Would you treat someone who has lost a spouse differently after reading Saturday Night Widows?
18. The book begins with a sad time in the characters’ lives. By the end, how did it make you feel?