The Grief of Others Paperback – 1 Mar 2012
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An engrossing and revealing look at a family sinking beneath the weight of a terrible secret. Cohen writes about difficult subjects with unfailing compassion and insight. (Tom Perrotta, author of 'Little Children')
With gorgeous prose, Cohen skillfully takes us from past to present and back again as she explores the ramifications of family loss, grief and longing. (Kirkus)
Cohen is one of our foremost chroniclers of the mundane complexities, nuanced tragedies and unexpected tendernesses of human connection. (New York Times Book Review)
In this subtle portrait of family life she shows the maddening arithmetic of marriage, the useless attempts to balance the equation. (New York Times)
Part of the novel's pathos lies in its ability to offer its characters a level of perceptive acuity and sympathetic attention they cannot offer one another ... The book's brilliance lies in moments like this one, these shards of devastating insight. (San Francisco Chronicle)
Cohen's stunning writing and ruthless, beautiful magnification of soul- crushing sorrow that threatens the Ryries' day-to-day family life mesmerizes, wounds, and possibly even heals her readers. (Library Journal)
With this incredibly moving commentary, Cohen has secured a place in the lineup of today's great writers. (Bookpage)
Cohen's new novel is a perceptive, absorbing drama about the complex bonds of the modern American family and the treacherous paradox of the way we live now. Somehow, the more open and flexible we try to become as spouses and parents, the more emotional risks we take-and the more secrets we keep. I love how deeply Cohen delves into the hearts of all her characters, bringing them fully alive, from their most heroic strivings to their darkest flaws. (Julia Glass, author of 'The Widower's Tale')
How does a family transcend its own pain? How do the secrets we keep shape our lives and the lives of those we love? In this gracefully written, elegantly structured novel, Leah Hager Cohen has created an indelible cast of characters whose story is at once wrenching and redemptive. This is a beautiful book. (Dani Shapiro, author of 'Family History')
A gorgeous, absorbing, intricately told tale of one family on the brink of collapse, as well as an intimate exploration of art and its place in our lives. Cohen expertly juggles six characters and all their needs, yearning, wounds, and secrets with tremendous skill and even more important-deep and tender compassion. She is a masterly writer on every level. (Lily King, author of 'Father of the Rain')
A delicate, haunting, and lovely, and very difficult to leave on the shelf. (Susanna Daniel, author of 'Stiltsville')
A wise and compassionate novel that looks frankly at the ways members of a family can wound and betray each other, even when trying to do just the opposite. Readers will be tempted to vilify Ricky, but she's much too complex for that. Despite the lies, subterfuges, and silences these characters inflict on one another, there are no villains here, just a family trying to carry on. (Suzanne Berne, author of 'The Ghost at the Table')
At once compact and sweeping. Cohen never strikes a false note in relating the complicated emotions of her characters. She has created a world both universal and particular. She illuminates all the ways it is glorious to be burdened with full-fledged humanity in the vast universe. (Robb Forman Dew, author of 'The Evidence Against Her')
Leah Hager Cohen writes like a dream and effortlessly inhabits each of her characters. She's not much known here yet, but lovers of family relationship literary fiction, such as Anne Tyler fans, need look no further. (John Harding Daily Mail 2012-03-02)
Cohen shows how people are warped by things that they choose to keep secret; her writing is wise and incredibly moving. (Kate Saunders Times 2012-03-24)
The Grief of Others has a lyrical bent and is affecting in its examination of unresolved sorrow (The Age, Australia 2012-04-07)
Is keeping a secret from a spouse always an act of infidelity? And what cost does such a secret exact on a family?See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
It *IS* a beautifully written book that clearly a lot of thought went into and it does have some really beautiful scenes that do give one smoke in one's eyes, but they are off set by the over-written scenes between them. It's the literary equivalent of scenery-chewing in places.
The book is based around a pretty miserable family and their pretty miserable lives - even before the horrible things happen, they're not very likeable characters - they act purely for themselves and then, when the misery kicks in following the death of a child, they totally fail to communicate to the point at which you just want to slap them - and in kind of an unrealistic way. It's like the author was going out of her way to create the most dysfunctional family possible. I just could not buy into it - they're people doing the opposite of what people do in a crisis. I'm sure such people exist but why would we want to read about them? This book just didn't sit well with me. I could not buy into it.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
All children are wanted, right??!! Actually, no. And certainly not in the Ryries' case. Simon was conceived in a careless moment of passion... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Ian - Hereford
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... Read morePublished on 22 Feb. 2013 by Frances Stott
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 morePublished on 21 Nov. 2012 by mellowpellow
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 morePublished on 4 Nov. 2012 by BusyReader
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 morePublished on 21 Jun. 2012 by M. A. Coyle
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... Read morePublished on 10 Jun. 2012 by FLB
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... Read morePublished on 31 May 2012 by Flickering Ember
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
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 morePublished on 22 May 2012 by H Pedder