The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen

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Synopsis

Is keeping a secret from a spouse always an act of infidelity? And what cost does such a secret exact on a family?

The Ryries 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, that the loss of a child had no lasting impact. Yet in the aftermath, 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 and are able to overcome their grief.


 

About Leah Hager Cohen

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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); inclusion in the American Library Association Ten Best Books of the Year; and selection as a BookSense 76 pick. She is a frequent contributor to The New York Times Book Review.
 
Published September 15, 2011 by Riverhead. 388 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Grief of Others

Kirkus Reviews

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Ten years before the birth of the doomed child, his daughter Jess has gone on a camping trip with her father, Ricky, and the two younger Ryrie children, Paul and Biscuit.

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The New York Times

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So we have “vitrine” in one story, and then in another “vitriol,” “vitrify” and “vitreous.” We find a “granite lap” here, a “silken lap” there, a “lap dance” elsewhere, not to mention “the loose silken purse of his genitalia in her lap.” We stumble upon “involution” in one story, “involutional” ...

Feb 17 2011 | Read Full Review of The Grief of Others

The New York Times

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If these were trusting relationships — if the medical profession were more empathetic, if the couple communicated more, if the parents noticed what the children were doing — there might be less need for such shame or the many forms of grief it accompanies.

Sep 15 2011 | Read Full Review of The Grief of Others

New York Journal of Books

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Biscuit thinks that, “Her parents seemed like the books you could see: they smiled and spoke and dressed and made supper and went off to work and all the other things they were supposed to do, but something, a crucial volume, had slipped down in back and couldn’t be reached.” Paul, meanwhile, w...

Sep 15 2011 | Read Full Review of The Grief of Others

The Bookbag

However, throughout the book the main characters, Ricky, husband John, and two children, thirteen year old Paul and ten year old Elizabeth, known throughout by her nickname of Biscuit, and the less central characters, the twenty three year old daughter of John's earlier relationship, Jess and ran...

Mar 08 2012 | Read Full Review of The Grief of Others

Bookmarks Magazine

Steven Hayward NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars "With graceful jumps into the past that illuminate the present, moving from one unerringly rendered point of view to another, Cohen weaves a complex pattern of light and dark, happiness and grief, in a 21st-century version of the family chroni...

Sep 20 2011 | Read Full Review of The Grief of Others

Oprah.com

It's a place that will raise your energy, lower your blood pressure and occasionally make you laugh—in short, a place of possibility.

Sep 15 2011 | Read Full Review of The Grief of Others

Fiction Writers Review

Blog (339) Anne Stameshkin (299) Celeste Ng (263) writers on writing (255) novel (217) Review (176) short stories (171) debut novel (153) Book of the Week (149) craft (133) Lee Thomas (117) lit and tech (111) recommended reading (109) FWR news (102) publishing (102) debut story collection (98) in...

Jan 17 2012 | Read Full Review of The Grief of Others

Fiction Writers Review

Blog (339) Anne Stameshkin (299) Celeste Ng (263) writers on writing (255) novel (217) Review (176) short stories (171) debut novel (153) Book of the Week (149) craft (133) Lee Thomas (117) lit and tech (111) recommended reading (109) FWR news (102) publishing (102) debut story collection (98) in...

Jan 17 2012 | Read Full Review of The Grief of Others

Fiction Writers Review

In response to a question about her journalism background and how she negotiates the different realms of fiction and nonfiction as an author, Cohen replies: All of my books, as I look back on them, seem to engage the idea of “other,” whether in the form of marginalized cultures or the private “o...

Jan 10 2012 | Read Full Review of The Grief of Others

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