Wid­ow­ish: A Memoir

September 1, 2020

When Melis­sa Gould’s hus­band, Joel, was unex­pect­ed­ly hos­pi­tal­ized, she could not imag­ine how her life was about to change. Over­whelmed with uncer­tain­ty as Joel’s con­di­tion trag­i­cal­ly wors­ened, she offered him the only thing she could: her love and devo­tion. Her ded­i­ca­tion did­n’t end with his death.

Left to resume life with­out her beloved hus­band and raise their young daugh­ter on her own, Melis­sa soon real­ized that her and Joel’s love lived on. Melis­sa found she did­n’t fit the typ­i­cal mold of wid­ow­hood or meet the expec­ta­tions of mourn­ing. She did­n’t look like a wid­ow or act like a wid­ow, but she felt like one. Melis­sa was widowish.

Discussion Questions

Cour­tesy of Melis­sa Gould

  1. Start­ing with the title, what did you expect the book to be about? Do you think that call­ing the book Wid­ow­ish accu­rate­ly describes what the author experienced?

  2. Did the book make you ques­tion your own ideas about wid­ow­hood and grief? How are your ideas dif­fer­ent and/​or similar?

  3. The author real­ly tack­les some very dif­fi­cult sub­jects, includ­ing whether or not to end her hus­bands life. Did her deci­sion chal­lenge your own thoughts and ideas about life sup­port? What does qual­i­ty of life” mean to you?

  4. Which scenes in the hos­pi­tal stand out the most to you? Why?

  5. Wid­ow­ish has been described as the funniest/​sad­dest book peo­ple have read. How do you feel about the humor with which the sto­ry gets told?

  6. Melis­sa attrib­ut­es so much of her suc­cess­ful mar­riage to the fact that she and Joel were friends for years before things got roman­tic between them. What did you think when they ran into each oth­er at the Dodgers game… and then when Joel went up to see her in Seattle?

  7. What do you think about Melissa’s idea of being an only par­ent?” Does that accu­rate­ly describe her sit­u­a­tion as a widow?

  8. What did you think of the scenes between Melis­sa and her daugh­ter, Sophie? Do you think you would have done things dif­fer­ent­ly as a parent?

  9. What do you make of Melissa’s heal­ing arse­nal” which includ­ed Joel Osteen, doing Clooney,” and the Real Housewives?

  10. Melissa’s friend gives her the advice to choose easy” — how could you apply that to your own life?

  11. What did you think of Mar­cos and Melissa’s attrac­tion to him? Do you think they make sense as a cou­ple even though the author makes a point of show­ing how dif­fer­ent they are?

  12. 12. Melis­sa takes Mar­cos to her friend Mimi’s birth­day par­ty. How do you think you would have react­ed to see­ing the town wid­ow” there on a date less than a year after her hus­band died?

  13. 13. Would you con­sid­er Wid­ow­ish a love sto­ry or a mem­oir about grief?
    14. What was your biggest take-away from Wid­ow­ish? Have cer­tain scenes/​moments stayed with you? What are they?