The director of the renowned theatre company The Group has just started writing the initial outline of her great dream, her own feature film, when the telephone rings. This is the moment that will change the young woman’s entire life in the space of a single second – her lover Luca, with whom she has lived and worked for years, has had an accident.
You’re dead, they say.
I don’t believe them.
The protagonist of ‘The Widow’s Kiss’ finds that everything her life was founded on has fallen away. She takes the reader with her through every stage of her journey into the deep, dark hell called grief.
She travels to France, where Luca’s accident took place, and visits the mortuary, where she has to take her leave of him. There she is confronted with the raw reality of death.
She returns to her own country where a big farewell ceremony is held. All she feels is cold.
My cheeks grow raw, scratched by badly shaved men’s faces. It suddenly dawns on me: I’m a widow.
The world around her grows increasingly bleak. Nothing and no one seems able to help her. It is the beginning of a quest for survival in a nightmare and she takes the reader with her, moving between past and present, from hell to the now quiet battlefield and back to hell again.
She and The Group quickly grow apart. She becomes increasingly isolated. But she goes on fighting to keep her balance, because she wants to make her film and because of her irrepressible desire for sex and intimacy.
What’s happening to me? I don’t recognise myself. I’m not like this. I ache with longing. I want to make love, to feel hands on my body. I want to be a woman again, to live again. My body is burning, inside and out.
Leaving The Group to its own devices for a while, she travels to South Africa to research her film. She ends up researching death and other people’s grief.
On her return home she encounters a crippled company – a parting of ways is inevitable. She had never imagined that people who until recently regarded her as their leader could totally ignore her. Her loneliness becomes truly unbearable when the management of the company bans her from speaking about The Group in public for an unlimited period.
Since it seems that she has now become, like it or not, a full-time filmmaker, she decides to travel to Hollywood and to Bollywood (Bombay). There she continues her research, trying to learn how to make a real feature film. She remains obsessed with injustice and grief.
Slowly she comes to realise (and to feel) that in her case grief will last longer than one year. The writing of her first film parallels her grieving process. She struggles to get to grips with her characters but finds it impossible, because she cannot get to grips with herself.
In the depths of her grief she loses her mother. But this time there is no sense of shock – this death makes sense.
She carries on in spite of everything. Thanks to her frequent travels to Africa and India, and to her work on the film, she gradually begins to see how to go on living. This process is reinforced when she meets a Zimbabwean freedom fighter and enters into an affair with him – the grief has gone from my eyes.
At the point when she is finally able to accept that she is alone, her father brings her unexpected news. He has a new girlfriend. She finds it extremely hard to accept that while she has had to struggle through years of loneliness, he has made a ‘catch’ even before his ‘first year’ is out.
Only when she has learned to accept this too and has conceded that everyone experiences grief differently, that it isn’t necessarily always as extraordinarily physical as it is for her, can she finally open herself up to love once more.