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November 1, 2005 > Dancing In My Nightgown

Dancing In My Nightgown

Book review by Robert A. Garfinkle

Dancing In My Nightgown: The Rhythms of Widowhood by Betty Auchard,
Stephens Press, LLC; 139 pages; $19.95

A new voice in memoirs has entered the stage. San Francisco Bay Area author Betty Auchard's award-winning debut book is about how she has survived the many crises in the life of a suddenly single person after the death of her husband, Denny. They had been married for 49 years when cancer took his life on July 9, 1998. Denny was the type of husband who did everything to keep the business end of a marriage running smoothly. He handled all of the finances and repairs to their home, and did almost all of the driving. When Denny died, Betty knew nothing about mundane things like paying the bills on time, hiring a handyman to fix the minor problems that develop in our homes, or paying taxes. She even had to learn how to put gas in her car.

Most memoirs are too often as dry and uninteresting as any writing can be. They tend to begin with something about the birthday of the author, blah, blah, blah. What school the author went to, blah, blah, blah. The author's career, blah, blah, blah. You get the picture. Betty's book is a totally different self-help memoir and very refreshing, too. With poignancy and humor, Betty retells her story in a series of tales. Her life has been a challenge since the day Denny was diagnosed with cancer, through his treatment and death, and the efforts to survive widowhood, yet she has been able to describe all of this with humor and a charm that makes this book hard to put down. You want to know what problem she has to overcome next and how she is going to keep her wits in the process.

One of my favorite stories is about Betty driving the car. On the occasions when Denny was forced to let her drive, he sat in the passenger seat and critiqued her driving. She finally had to put him "on a ration of five criticisms per round-trip" to the hospital during his treatment period. A couple of weeks after Denny's funeral, Betty was transporting his urn home in a velour bag. "Something occurred to me as I drove this container home. This was probably the only time in our forty-nine years of life together that Denny was my passenger and wouldn't be saying a word about my driving."

"Dancing in My Nightgown" was one of the 116 finalists out of 2200 books submitted in the 2005 Independent Publishers Book Award (IPPY) competition. The IPPY award is quite an accomplishment for a retired art teacher who took up writing as a way to heal from the loss of her life companion. I guess it is too bad for the reading public that Betty began her writing career so late in life. One has to wonder what this very talented storyteller could have put on our bookshelves if she had been writing such amazing stories for many years. I highly recommend this delightful book, even if you are not in widowhood.

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