Sunday, February 26, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: "The Grief of Others"

The Grief of Others
By Leah Hager Cohen
Copyright 2011
Riverhead Books
Adult Fiction

Yes! Finally a book I can wholeheartedly recommend! Love it when that happens.

It’s actually a little strange that I liked this book so much. The story is about the Ryrie family that has just suffered the loss of a baby a mere 57 hours after his birth. I usually shy away from any stories dealing with dead babies, mostly because they remind me of my own grief at losing a baby mid-pregnancy many years ago. But it was actually a little cathartic reading this book, which details the way that each member of the Ryrie family deals with the loss in their own, individual way.

The father, John, and the mother, Ricky, have their own issues as a couple that they were avoiding even prior to the pregnancy. The death of the baby brings those issues to the forefront as they try to make sense of their individual places within the relationship. John, who has been somewhat emasculated by the fact that Ricky is the main breadwinner of the family, delves deeper into his work as a set director at a local college in seeking to move past his familial struggles. Ricky holds on to deep-seeded guilt in relation to the baby’s death and reacts in an extremely understandable way to the loss.

The oldest child, Paul, flounders through his day-to-day existence and never quite seems to fit in anywhere at home or at school. The daughter, nicknamed “Biscuit”, sees herself in a much more profound role. She secretly researches death ceremonies of other civilizations as she struggles to make sense of their family’s loss.

And so, as this family drifts further and further apart, will they somehow be able to put their world back together again?

I was truly impressed with the writing style of the author. She had the amazing ability of describing emotional events with enough detachment as to make the reader feel they were outside looking in to a very private experience; like a fly on the wall. The story flowed effortlessly between each character and what was happening for them at that particular moment; what they were thinking, feeling, and acting upon.

Even though the subject matter was obviously sad, the story itself was not. I would recommend this book, even to those who normally don’t like the sad ones. This would be especially great as a book club book. Absolutely beautifully written.

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