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Good Night, I Love You: A Widow's Awakening from Pain to Purpose Hardcover – September 19, 2017
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About the Author
Jene' Ray Barranco is a motivational speaker to Christian and secular groups, churches and women's conferences, and founder of a ministry to single moms. She blogs at www.eyesstr8ahead.blogspot.com and "A Woman's Heart" at www.jenebarrano.blogspot.com. She is the mother of three children and resides in Jackson, Mississippi.
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Ms. Barranco is a major American voice and this book should be widely read. Highly recommended.
The sudden loss of a young husband and father is devastating, and Barranco gives a clear picture of how even the smallest things can bring on tears and a reminder of how much has been lost. However, there are three things that weaken the narrative and make it hard to really empathize with her.
First, this is the story of a wealthy family, and it does not appear that there are any significant financial ramifications from her husband's death. Yes, she does ultimately sell her 5,000 square foot house, but the area to which she moves is clearly one beyond the reach of almost all of us. Unfortunately, the widows I have known have not had this luxury, and there is nothing here that indicates she might understand how added budgetary pressures often add to the burden of a widow whose children may have to give up a great deal of their former lives because of reduced income. Flying her father across country to a professional basketball game was a lovely gesture, but it is not something many widows could ever contemplate.
A second problem is the perfect picture that is drawn of the Barranco's marriage and family life. Online obituaries and memorials bear out the author's description of the immense esteem so many held for Michael Barranco, and I am glad that she has so many precious memories of him. Still, the narrative is almost fairy-tale-like in its picturing of continuous love notes, lavish gifts, and perfect family life. About the only negative thing we learn about her husband is that he sometimes left his shoes on the floor of their large walk-in closet instead of re-shelving them. No, I am not looking for a tell-all kind of story, but for many widows, there are also memories of arguments and, sometimes, in the grieving process, anger at the very person they loved for having left them too soon. Somehow, reading this, it seemed as though any kind of negative thought toward the deceased should make one feel guilty.
In the end, my greatest concern with the book was the intense self-centeredness. I am glad that Mrs. Barranco has so many friends and family members who always seem to be there, to stay with her for weeks, to dedicate a specific prayer journal only for her family, who allow her to not have to cook a meal for months and months after Mr. Barranco's death. While she has to work with attorneys and others to resolve the wrap up of her husband's business, the rest of her time seems to be spent mostly pondering her grief and writing about it. She is happy for the way these friends are always there to reach out to her, but I don't see much reciprocation on her part to help others.
This selfishness was brought home most clearly near the end of the book. (Spoiler alert) When her father dies shortly after suffering a stroke, she writes of how much this second loss has hurt her more. Yes, that is understandable. However, she says nothing, nada, zilch, about her mother's pain and loss. In fact her mother is mentioned after her father's death only once, when mom is going to be driving one of the author's daughters to college. If she so feels the loss of a husband, the severity of sudden widowhood, why is there no mention of her mother's loss or how she might be able to reach out and share the loss?
For some, there may be solace here, and it is good to see that it is a strong faith that is carrying Barranco and her children through the traumatic years. However, for many, I believe this could only add to the feelings of loss and aloneness a widow in less fortunate circumstance may feel.
This book was difficult for me to read through and I kept putting it down to read something else and then finally told myself that I had to finish it and write the review. What was so hard to read in the book? One, being that the author had been apparently married to the only A+ perfect Christian husband in the world. She also seemed to have an A+ perfect family with her 3 children and then she had A+ perfect friends that surrounded her and comforted her as well as making life livable. She managed to go about 3 months without having to cook a meal or having to sleep alone due to contributions from her friends and church friends.
She also had an advantage that I have never met or heard of a new widow having the resources she did. Finances rarely came up except for her dealing with selling her husband’s new office that he hadn’t quite moved into. Eventually selling her 5000 sq. ft. house! And then eventually replacing her headboard, sheets and pillows in the amount of I would guess $1000+! I’ve never known a widow with what appeared to be such great financial resources. Most of them, depending on how their husband died, are left with stacks of bills and wondering how they will be able to afford groceries next week along with paying the rent or mortgage. Nor had concerned folks left three months’ worth of meals for them Don’t get me wrong, I am happy that she was not left destitute and her daughter was able to start college with no fretting about where the money would come from. Or that she, in the midst of her grief, she didn’t have that black cloud of finances hanging over her head.
These matters made me wonder why she wrote the book in the first place. I think it rose out of her journal while going through her grief and her walk with God. This may be the absolute perfect book for some widows as they process the loss of their spouse, but for many new widows I think they would not be blessed to be handed this book and told that it will help them. Not every widow lives the life of TV reality. Many of them for years will struggle with finances, with friends that have excluded them since she is no longer a pair, with children that don’t take the loss kindly either and end up doing drugs and drinking to excess. Many of the current widows may find themselves job hunting while deep in the morning process if they want to keep a roof over their heads and food in their children’s belly. While Social Security may chip in for some of the finances, I don’t see them issuing a check within days of the death. If a husband dies and the children have already left the nest, there will be no Social Security until she reaches her 60’s.
Obviously, I am conflicted about this book. I am happy for her that her husband left her well provided for but if this book was meant to give comfort to a wife in her recent loss of her husband, the giver needs to be very careful about the circumstances that the woman finds herself in.