Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Grief of Others

Leah Hager Cohen
ISBN:  978-1594488054
Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover
Source: TLC Book Tours

About the Book:
Is keeping a secret from a spouse always an act of infidelity? And what cost does such a secret exact on a family?
The Ryrie’s have suffered a loss: the death of a baby just fifty-seven hours after his birth. Without words to express their grief, the parents, John and Ricky, try to return to their previous lives. Struggling to regain a semblance of normalcy for themselves and for their two older children, they find themselves pretending not only that little has changed, but that their marriage, their family, have always been intact. Yet in the aftermath of the baby’s death, long-suppressed uncertainties about their relationship come roiling to the surface. A dreadful secret emerges with reverberations that reach far into their past and threaten their future.
The couple’s children, ten-year-old Biscuit and thirteen-year-old Paul, responding to the unnamed tensions around them, begin to act out in exquisitely- perhaps courageously-idiosyncratic ways. But as the four family members scatter into private, isolating grief, an unexpected visitor arrives, and they all find themselves growing more alert to the sadness and burdens of others-to the grief that is part of every human life but that also carries within it the power to draw us together.
Moving, psychologically acute, and gorgeously written, The Grief of Others asks how we balance personal autonomy with the intimacy of relationships, how we balance private decisions with the obligations of belonging to a family, and how we take measure of our own sorrows in a world rife with suffering. This novel shows how one family, by finally allowing itself to experience the shared quality of grief, is able to rekindle tenderness and hope.

My Thoughts:
This book is beautifully written.  The Grief of Others follows the Ryrie family and two close characters as they deal with their grief.  Each character is reacting to their loss in their own way, giving a realistic look at grief and how people handle it differently.  The novel focuses on the Ryrie family and their inability to cope with the death of a baby.  Though not every member of the family deals with the loss in a healthy manner, their reactions and later, their actions, make the book realistic and believable.  I was easily able to identify to some characters more than others due to my own personality.  Though not all of the characters were likeable, the story was well done.
This book is highly poignant and at times frustrating.  I disliked Ricky and the way she handled herself.  Not only did Ricky keep a huge secret from her husband, she doesn’t handle her own grief and guilt well, which hurts her family and mostly her children, who are still alive and well.  As a mom, I can’t imagine the grief of losing a child ever, never mind so soon after birth.  However, the loss of one does not make the loss of all.  I had trouble with Ricky regarding the way she treated everyone else because of the loss.
Though a tough read the emotions in this book are captured in a believable manner that makes this novel conflicting yet enticing.  At times I wanted to quit reading, yet I couldn’t put it down.  Leah is a talented writer.  This story stayed with me for quite a while.  I would recommend this book.
About Leah Hager Cohen
Leah Hager Cohen is the author of four nonfiction books, including Train Go Sorry and Glass, Paper, Beans, and three novels, most recently House Lights. Among the honors her books have received are selection as a New York Times Notable Book (four times); American Library Association Ten Best Books of the Year; and a Booksense 76 Pick. She is a frequent contributor to the New York Times Book Review.

Visit Leah at her website,, and read her blog, Love as a Found Object. Join Leah’s fan page on Facebook.


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