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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Grief of Others...Review

In the tradition of The Memory Keeper's Daughter, a gripping, generous, and provocative novel chronicling the grief that follows the death of a newborn—and leads to a family's emotional reawakening.

It begins with loss. John and Ricky Ryrie are stricken by the death of their third child, only fifty-seven hours after his birth. Struggling to regain a semblance of normalcy, they find themselves pretending not only that little has changed, but that nothing was wrong before this baby came so briefly into their lives. Yet in the aftermath of his death, long suppressed uncertainties about their relationship come roiling to the surface. A dreadful secret emerges concerning what Ricky knew about her pregnancy and concealed from everyone, even John. And the couple's two older children, grappling with the tensions around them, begin to act out in exquisitely, perhaps courageously, idiosyncratic ways. Ultimately, though, the grief that was initially so isolating brings the four family members to connect powerfully with the sadness and burdens of others—to the grief that is part of every human life and that carries within it the ability to draw us together. And in the end, Ricky and John's marriage is stronger for the transformation their grief has allowed.

Moving, psychologically acute, and gorgeously written, The Grief of Others is Leah Hager Cohen at the height of her talent in what is sure to be her breakout book, one that forces readers to ask themselves: What would I have done? The Grief of Others exposes the paradox that facing tragedy together can in fact awaken us to our better selves and take us from fear to a place of hope and optimism.

After the death of their infant son from anencephaly, the Ryrie family finds themselves grieving individually, isolated from one another. While they all pretend that outwardly their world is intact, inwardly the fabric of their family is fracturing itself into pieces.  John and Ricky are distant with each other, Biscuit and Paul struggle with normal childhood and pre-teen issues that are compounded by grief over the loss of a brother they never knew and distant parents.  Jess, overcome by unexpected pregnancy shows up searching for purpose and meaning. 

There is no narrator.  The book moves between perspectives and the author is able to bring us into each person's mind and thoughts so completely. Grief is something very individual.  We all grieve differently and it's too easy to let grief fester in our hearts where it impedes life's normal progressions.  Ricky and John are not only unable to connect and support one another, they are incapable of helping their children deal with grief.

This is an inherently sad novel.  These aren't characters you particularly connect with or care about, but they are people who evoke strong emotions and like a voyeur, you find yourself unable to pull away from the raw, heartbreaking scenes before you.

Beautifully lyrical, but with moderate, unnecessary profanity. While this isn't necessarily a book that I would re-read, it's a compelling story about life and family heartbreak and how tragedy has the ability to both bring us together and divide us forever.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Leah Hager Cohen here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see other reviews and tour stops here.

Tuesday, September 13th: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Wednesday, September 14th: Book Addiction
Thursday, September 15th: BookNAround
Friday, September 16th: Colloquium
Monday, September 19th: Crazy for Books
Tuesday, September 20th: Life In Review
Wednesday, September 21st: 2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews
Thursday, September 22nd: A Cozy Reader’s Corner
Monday, September 26th: The House of the Seven Tails
Tuesday, September 27th: Library of Clean Reads
Wednesday, September 28th: That’s What She Read
Thursday, September 29th: StephTheBookworm
Monday, October 3rd: A Bookish Way of Life
Tuesday, October 4th: In the Next Room
Wednesday, October 5th: Laura’s Reviews
Thursday, October 6th: Peeking Between the Pages
Friday, October 7th: Iwriteinbooks’s blog

Read 9/11

* * *
3/5 Stars


  1. Sounds like a very emotional read. Thanks for the great review!

  2. This sounds like a powerfully emotional read. I'll be sure to have tissues handy when I read it.

  3. It is amazing to me how people can react to tragedy in such different ways. This one sounds like a real tearjerker!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts for the tour.

  4. Sounds like a tissue-needing book....thanks for the great review.


    Stop by my blog if you like.



  5. I've been wanting to read this one, too! I tried winning it through the author, but ended up winning it on Goodreads instead! So it's waiting on my TBR mountain.