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Me for You

Rudy and Bethany have an enviable life. Married since college, they're still best friends, savoring their near-retirement years even after Rudy was laid off. Bethany still has her job; Rudy enjoys his part-time gig at Nordstrom's playing baby grand piano; and their daughter, CeCe, is successful and happily married. But one morning, Rudy awakens and romantically whispers a suggestion that they go to the beach, only to realize that Bethany isn't breathing. And just like that, Rudy is a widower.

Lolly Winston (Good Grief; Happiness Sold Separately) has a knack for finding the joy after heartbreak, and in Me for You she writes a hopeful but realistic plot. Rudy is lonely (an "embarrassing thing to speak of," which "implied that you personally were deficient") but not keen on following CeCe's encouragement to enroll in the community college online dating class. He instead imagines cooking dinner for Sasha, the Hungarian salesclerk working near his piano, and they do form a friendship. Rudy is happy to advise Sasha on her troubles--an alcoholic husband who's abandoned her and their debts, plus her own recent tragedy--but his grief over losing Bethany only worsens. When CeCe finds he's unkempt, skipping work and despondent, she arranges for a hospitalized rest, and his Stanford doctors diagnose major depressive disorder.

Through Rudy's hospitalization and recovery, Winston writes knowingly of mental health and its treatment. Me for You is a romance with a core of compassion for the struggles following the loss of a loved one, and Rudy's happy ending is well-earned. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco