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The Grief of Others [Paperback]

Leah Hager Cohen
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
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Book Description

21 Mar 2013
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. 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.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.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Clerkenwell Press (21 Mar 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184668627X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846686276
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.8 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 222,659 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"'Leah Hager Cohen writes like a dream and effortlessly inhabits each of her characters. Lovers of family relationship literary fiction, such as Anne Tyler fans, need look no further' (Daily Mail) 'Cohen's writing is wise and incredibly moving' (The Times) 'Cohen is one of our foremost chroniclers of the unexpected tendernesses of human connection' (New York Times Book Review)"

Book Description

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

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
By Ripple TOP 100 REVIEWER
As the title suggests, the subject matter of Leah Hager Cohen's "The Grief of Others" is pretty grim stuff. The Ryrie family, living in the suburbs of New York, suffer the tragic loss of a baby just fifty seven hours after it is born. The book details how, one year later, the family are coping, or more accurately not coping.

The cover blurb tells us that in the US, this was an "Oprah Pick" and that tells you much about what to expect. It's a classic Oprah story in that it details family emotions, has a huge chunk of trauma and is just that little bit "worthy". I'm in something of two minds about it. I have no doubt that it is beautifully written, and particularly in the opening scene describing Mum, Ricky's feelings as her son is born, incredibly moving. Although thankfully never having been in that awful situation, it at least feels psychologically realistic throughout. 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 random stranger, Gordie all infuriated me at some point.

On one reading, the characters are mawkishly self-obsessed and this is only partly justified by the terrible events with which the Ryrie family is faced with. One section of the book covers the period eight years previous to the baby's death which is supposed to represent a happier time, but even then the adult characters are prone to self-obsessive traits and are not wholly likable. In fact, one of my main gripes is that John and Ricky just don't seem to belong together.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tender & moving read 3 Feb 2013
The prologue to THE GUILT OF OTHERS is exquisitely poignant: a mother refusing to let go her new born baby whose congenital birth defects were discovered in the womb when the foetus was five months. The baby's birth and death brings to the surface molten cracks in the Ryrie family that have simmered unacknowledged for years.

The story moves back and forth between John and Ricky Ryrie, their children Paul and Biscuit, John's pregnant eldest daughter from a previous relationship, Jess, and a stranger, Gordie. Binding them all together, as most of humanity is bound together, are the threads of birth and death.

Cohen's compassionate prose slides easily between the year since the baby was born and died, and the first time Jess met her biological father. In all the Ryrie's memories, that long ago holiday was a golden time, a time of perfect happiness in which the possibility of death, while a real threat (a single mother drowns in the lake, leaving behind two orphaned children) cannot touch them.

But death - in the form of baby Simon - does touch the family and, in doing so, cracks their fears and flaws, their wounds and worries, wide open. The underlying question in the story is whether that perfect holiday was an illusion. Or was the love underpinning it real enough to salvage the family from their current crisis of grief and pain?

The last chapter, however, was a bit strange: there were a few questions raised (did John sleep with Madeleine? Were Gordie's father's dioramas put on show?) that were dealt with tangentially, as the story shifted from the personal details of a family we, as readers, have come to know intimately, to a more universal viewpoint.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A depressing read! 7 Aug 2012
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book tells the story of the Ryrie family and is centered around the tragic loss of their newborn baby boy, who died at just 57 hours old. You learn about each member of the family and how the loss has affected them. For me I found this book slow and hard going, it was a depressing read and apart from feeling empathy for the family at having to go through such a loss, I didn't particularly like any of the characters.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too depressing to enjoy 10 Jun 2012
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I took this book with me on my holiday, hoping for a steady and interesting read. The book was well written I felt, but the characters started to annoy me with their self obsessing and this for me put a damper on the book. I might have enjoyed reading this more if I had been tucked up in bed with the flu feeling sorry for myself, but otherwise it is just too depressing to enjoy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Grief of Others seems rather self-absorbed. 31 May 2012
By Flickering Ember TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I agree totally with the review posted by Ripple. Whilst the subject matter is worthy, I felt that the characters became rather self-obssessed and this made it a frustrating and slightly nauseating read. Maybe this is deliberate; making them so divisive as of course the reader feels empathy with the characters for the awful experience of losing a child, and everyone has their own opinion on how they would handle the same situation themselves.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful exploration of a grieving family 22 Feb 2013
I seem to be in a bit of a minority among reviewers, but I loved this book. From the first, exquisitely painful description of the birth and death - aged just 57 hours - of the baby who has caused the grief, I was gripped.

The main characters - the parents, Ricky and John; the two older siblings, the wonderfully nick-named girl, thirteen-year-old Biscuit, and her teenage brother Paul; and Jess, John's semi-estranged adult daughter from a previous relationship - are all affected by the baby's death, but in different ways; ways they are often unable to explain or share. An inevitable wedge grows between Ricky and John, not least because Ricky has been keeping a big secret, and John cannot understand why. Biscuit becomes obsessed with funeral rituals; Paul gets into trouble at school. This is all so believeable. One reviewer expected more emotion, but I thought there was plenty of emotion; much of it was expressed in odd ways, but it was certainly there. As the family struggle to cope with their different feelings, and the effects those feelings have had on their relationships with each other, changes take place, and the resolution was (I thought) a good one. Endings are often unsatisfactory, but this one was very well-handled.

Plot apart, I loved the writing. The author has a way of putting into words things I've thought, but never voiced, and I enjoyed the feeling of recognition. The only quibble I would have is with the flash-back to happier times, when the children were all much younger. I wasn't sure this really worked, and on one occasion, the then five-year-old Paul's ability to deduce the time with some unlikely mental arithmetic jarred a little (many children can't tell the time at all at that age). But this is a small complaint. Otherwise, I thought this was a beautiful, moving, authentic read, and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard going
This book is a story about a couple who lose their baby after only living for 57 hours.I expected it to be more emotional and read mainly about the emotions and turmoil when going... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Mrs. R. Breslin
3.0 out of 5 stars Started well but drifted off.
The story of grief and the loss of a baby , a baby born with a condition " incompatible with life", and the family coming to terms with this and the changes this makes... Read more
Published 17 months ago by BusyReader
4.0 out of 5 stars well written
This book tells the story of one family, one year on from the tragic death of their baby-who died aged only 57 hours. Read more
Published 22 months ago by M. A. Coyle
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a page turner
A very well written book with lots of description but for me, not a page turner.

The Ryrie family dealing with the loss, twelve months previously, of a baby carried to... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Clare Mccann
3.0 out of 5 stars High on beautiful description, low on page-turning pull
What this book lacks in pace it makes up for in prose. Hager Cohen writes beautifully, with almost poetic observation, but this cannot disguise the plodding plot of The Grief of... Read more
Published 23 months ago by H Pedder
3.0 out of 5 stars SECRETS AND LIES
This is not the easiest of books to read - at least l found it quite hard going.
It is stylishly written and the story revolves around the loss that the Ryries suffered... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Mrs. C. Swarfield
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting
What a beautiful, stunning, and amazing book. It deals so amazingly with loss and how it impacts a family. Read more
Published on 14 Mar 2012 by StarWarsFan
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