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Good Grief: Life in a Tiny Vermont Village Paperback – October 26, 2015
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“This is my favorite kind of book―a messy, loving, bubbling over at the edges family, replete with exes, dogs, culinary disasters, and the tender heart of love and loss. A must-read, never-forget story.” (Jo-Ann Mapson, author of Solomon's Oak, Finding Casey, and Owen's Daughter)
“Stimson makes great, entertaining reading out of kids’ unusual dating selections, shark attacks, sudden illness, and even an untimely death. Entertaining? Yes. She has that articular way with words and storytelling that makes the most out of learning to deal with grief.” (Booklist)
“I laughed and cried the whole way through this marvelous, moving, and, above all, joyful book. A chronicle of the further adventures of Ellen Stimson’s eminently lovable family, Good Grief is a lesson in love and loss, as well as a reminder that life keeps happening, rituals matter, and dogs really are man’s best friend. Ellen Stimson’s voice is humane, human, and hilarious―but always wise. And her family is the one you want to borrow. It’s impossible not to cheer this gang on.” (Julia Reed, author of But Mama Always Put Vodka in Her Sangria!: Adventures in Eating, Drinking, and Making Merry)
“Imagine Jerry Seinfeld and Annie Dillard on the dance floor, gliding gracefully from keenly observed humor to contemplative insight. As they glide by, you join them in a few pirouettes, and the challenges of your own life transform: you laugh at them; you understand them better. When the music ends, you feel grateful, lighter, and more compassionate. That dance is Ellen Stimson’s Good Grief. In the midst of the ups and downs of daily life, Stimson and her nontraditional family choose to respond, as she says ‘with love and humor.’ What shines through these pages is Stimson’s deep and genuine gratitude for this whole messy thing we call Living. Good Grief taught me to laugh harder and love better―and to always, always choose compassion.” (BK Loren, author of Theft and Animal, Mineral, Radical)
“Both hilarious and poignant, Stimson spins the tales of her ever-eventful small-town Vermont life with a self-effacing, smart, and heart-touching honesty that will make you feel as if you are sitting across from her at her (burned) dining room table―and wishing so much that you really were!” (Suzanne McMinn, author of Chickens in the Road: An Adventure in Ordinary Splendor)
About the Author
Ellen Stimson is blessed with a wild pack of children; not-so-wild but completely adorable husband; and a very civilized group of chickens, dogs, and cats. Lately she's decided that she really wants a pig. She writes about the whole catastrophe from an old farmhouse in Vermont.
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Top Customer Reviews
The funny is very funny indeed, and the sad had me sniffling. Stimson is a skilled and effective writer, and I enjoyed spending vicarious time with her, her family, and their friends and critters.
Compared to "Mud Season", this is more centered on relationships than on place.
I enjoyed it, both the funny and the sad, and look forward to reading more by her.
She really lost me when her adult son just had to have a certain type of cat from a pet mill from North Carolina. They just seemed like rich people who could have been living in any small town in America.
I should have been forewarned that GOOD GRIEF by its title alone-- as well as the information the publisher sent to me with the advance reader's copy-- that I was in for some serious grief work here since I knew that an ex-husband would die. But damnit! I, who live with the most handsome cat that ever walked, didn't expect Eli's beloved cat Zoe to die by page 131 about half way through the book. "It was a lot of sad." It was pretty much Niagara Falls for me from that moment on. Ms. Stimson does such a remarkable job of describing her ex-husband Steve -- and father of her oldest child Benjamin-- who became almost like a brother to her and good friend of her now-husband John that I felt as if I had lost a family member of my own when he died suddenly of a heart attack at fifty-eight. (What a wonderful memorial she has given to him by writing this memoir.)
Additionally you have to love someone, who with all her prowess as a chef, never learned to use chopsticks (neither did I) and any couple (she and her husband John) who instead of raking leaves in autumn would just choose to lie down on a quilt to watch Vermont's multi-colored falling leaves. And you have to respect someone who calls her parents "dad" and "mom" and refers to her son Benjamin riddled with grief over the death of his father as "my boy." (The "my boy" makes her an honorary Southerner, whether she wants to be or not, bless her heart.)
Ultimately what makes this second book of Ms. Stimson so special is her conclusions about this messy thing we call life. Here are some that resonated so much with me, in her own words that are much better than how I might paraphrase: " But life has a way of altering your plans." Here is Ms. Stimson on family: "I mean, it seems to me that every family--yours too, maybe--is strange in its own way." (A fellow New Englander Jennifer Finney Boylan wrote an entire book on this subject, STUCK IN THE MIDDLE WITH YOU.) She reminds us that "Life is a gift." (Say Amen, somebody!) And she points out to us that we don't stay mad at good friends for long but make up: "because you know, this is what you do in a real friendship of long duration. You scotch over and make room for one another's foibles." Of course, "sadness and death are universal." When Ms. Stimson compares life events to a strong wind, her prose rises to the level of poetry: "We cannot change the way the wind blows any more than we can change the stories that happen to us. The only control we ever have is how we react to what comes, and that becomes the story we tell." She finally gets around to love as I knew she would: "Just like every good preacher says, our job in this world is to do as much of that loving as we possibly can with the time we have and with the people who are on the ride with us. I would add one corollary. We should have as much fun doing it as we possibly can."
Finally as Ms. Stimson remembers Steve who left those he loved far too soon, the lesson is loud and clear: "Live with intention. Live on purpose. Every day."
Both this classy writer's gentle (always) humor and goodness are evident on every page of this book that can only be described as simply wonderful.