Prepare to laugh. And cry.
Maine author and artist Sandi Amorello has finally completed the book she has promised for so long. “The Irreverent Widow” tells the story of the death of her beloved husband, Drew, her grieving process and what it’s like for a woman in her 40s to get back into the dating game after suffering so momentous a loss.
She tells her story in wrenching detail, down to her husband’s final breath and the wail of grief from his brother, who arrived too late for a final goodbye. She talks about raising children alone, moving to Maine and resettling her life.
And she tells seriously funny stories about some of the men she has met along the way in the decade since her husband’s death, including one about a guy who promised he looked better than Ben Affleck.
He did not.
Amorello, who lives in Cape Elizabeth, has exhibited her artwork in Portland, and is best known for her column, “No Sugar Added,” that appeared in The Forecaster. Her final column ran earlier this month.
Q: I have to start by saying this is one of the most amazing books I’ve read in a long time. How difficult was it to commit to these words?
A: A lot of it was very difficult. I wrote a lot of stories before I started writing the more serious stories in the book. The dating stuff and funny stuff I starting writing years ago. But I realized I needed to do the hard work and go back in my head and revisit what I went through. It was very emotional and cathartic. It felt like I was finally getting it out and writing it down.
It was a very healing process, but it was very difficult. That’s why it took so long to finally write it all.
Q: How long did it take?
A: In 2007, I was preparing my “Irreverent Widow” art exhibit at my studio on Oak Street in Portland. I had been making art and writing stories about my humorous dating experiences a few years after I moved to Maine. Once I started writing, within about two weeks, I had 180 or 200 pages of essays. They just came pouring out.
Q: This answer may be obvious, but I hate to assume: Why did you write this book?
A: I wrote it because I honestly could not find a book that was uplifting and had humor in it and made me feel optimistic about my future when I was first widowed and my kids were very young. The only book I found was at the transfer station where I was living in Massachusetts. It was not about being widowed, but was written by a woman who lost a son around age 20.
There was something in the title that let me know she had a sense of humor still. That was the only book that I remember making me feel like there is someone who is not just depressing me more.
Q: Whom do you envision as your readers?
A: Oh goodness. I used to envision, until I actually started showing my stories to people, probably women between the ages of 35 and 55 as my main audience. Once I had my website up and started sharing stories and once people read my work and responded, I realized I was connecting with a lot of single parents and divorced people, and connecting with people in their 20s who were just dating.
I was sharing wisdom and making them laugh about stuff. My website allowed me to reach people I never would have reached otherwise — any age, either sex and a lot of different situations. It has a much broader appeal than I was initially thinking.
Q: After I moved beyond the first few pages, I was struck by the humor. This must have been fun to write, once you addressed Drew’s death and your grief.
A: I’ve always had a sense of humor. Drew and I connected a lot on our shared sense of humor. When he was going through his ordeal with cancer, he would make jokes while we were sitting at Dana-Farber (Cancer Institute in Boston).
That obviously was an incredibly serious situation, but I used to say, if he had terminal cancer and still had things to laugh about, I can stay on that route after he is gone. That is what he would want.
There is just no other way for me to deal with life than with finding those tidbits of humor to pull you through to the next day.
Q: What is it about guys? Some of your stories suggest there are no good men out there.
A: Oh my goodness, that’s really a tough one. I will just say, Drew told me he wanted me to have someone. I had no guilt about moving forward. I was not looking for someone to marry. I just needed to do something to make me feel alive.
My fear at first was that I was not going to find any nice men. It restored my faith in humanity that I did find many nice men. The hard thing is to find that spark.
I’ve had a lot of humorous experiences. Dating with kids in the mix is not the easiest of things to accomplish.
Q: Why did you move to Maine?
A: I moved here in summer 2005. Drew died in our house, and we had to move for our mental health. We lived outside of Boston, and we always wanted to be close to the ocean. I knew I needed to be closer to the ocean.
The first two men I dated for more than one or two dates were both from Maine. It was very interesting. I got to come up here during the holiday time. It was just magical. It was snowing and I was walking around on the cobblestones, and I felt a lot of warmth. I thought, “This is a magical place.” I could see myself living here.
I didn’t move here because of a man. But being able to spend time here during the different seasons just drew me.
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or: