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The Grief of Others Hardcover – September 15, 2011
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More About the Author
She is Distinguished Writer in Residence at the College of the Holy Cross and teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Lesley University.
Top Customer Reviews
John and Ricky Ryrie are struggling with their own personal demons and the slow disintegration of their marriage. Caught up in their own private pain, they are not initially aware that their behavior has adversely affected their two children. Ricky has kept an important secret from her husband. She knew that their third child had a very poor diagnosis, and would not live for long after birth. She chooses not to share this information with her husband, till many months into the pregnancy. As in "Catcher in the Rye" their 11 year old daughter, Biscuit, has been unable to find closure after the death. Their 13 year old son, Paul, has turned secretive and he is bullied in school and finds he cannot count of his mother and father the way he use to. Into this household enters Jess, John's pregnant daughter from a previous relationship, who is hoping to capture the joy she felt when she came for a visit with this family many years ago. The final character is a young man, who takes Biscuit home after an incident, who is also grieving for a loved one. He finds even this damaged family is better than having none at all.
While I thought this book was well-written, I found it a little difficult to connect with all of the characters. At times, it was like I was seeing them from a distance. I saw them going through the emotions, but I did not have that visceral connection I would have liked. They say to understand is to forgive, I had some trouble understanding what made these characters tick. I would still recommend this book, especially to those readers who like their families in turmoil.
Instead, I was immediately drawn to the fragile, brittle beauty of this story, of author Leah Hager Cohen's words. The premise of the book immediately inspires sadness...as a mother I cannot even fathom the thought of losing a child, and yet there is something about this book that grabbed onto me and wouldn't let me go.
"He was out of the womb and alive in the world for fifty-seven hours - a tally that put him in rare statistical company and caused in his mother an absurd sense of pride - during which time she kissed his ears and insteps and toes and palms and knuckles and lips repeatedly, a lifetime of kisses."
That paragraph is absolutely heartbreaking - but it feels so real that I was just in awe. As much as I never want to imagine the pain and grief of a mother holding her child that she knows does not have long to live, the way the author creates the images seem absolutely...right.
This is the story of a mother, and a father...and brother and sister...a family who must move on after tragedy but is unsure exactly what that "after" looks like.
There are many heartrending parts to this book. The scene where Ricky (the baby's mother) learns of her child's birth defect...Read more ›
The writing is, indeed, beautiful. The story opens with Ricky Ryrie in a hospital bed, holding her newborn son who is fated to die within the next few hours. "The whorls of his ears were as marvelously convoluted as any Echer drawing, the symmetry precise, the lobs little as teardrops, soft as peaches," Ms. Cohen writes.
The aftermath of the newborns death will cause a vortex of emotions in each member of the family: Ricky, her husband John, their two children Paul and Biscuit, and John's grown daughter from a former dalliance, Jess. The children begin to act out in their own ways; Biscuit becomes obsessed with farewell rituals, Paul overeats and rails against his classmates' assessment of him. And Jess reflects, "What she remembers of the Ryries, the memory she cherished above all of her time with them on that single summer holiday eight years ago, was how shiny she had appeared in their eyes, how good and honorable and clean." She yearns for that feeling of being prized, at a time when the Ryries have nothing left to give.
All of this centers around accepting that Ricky, who finds out in her fifth month that she is pregnant with an anencephalic child - a child that is missing the major portion of his brain and also the top of his skull and scalp - chooses to go forward with her pregnancy, not telling anyone, even John, and pulling off a pretense that everything is fine for the next four months. Were she a religious person - or perhaps a woman who had striven long and hard to bear a child - one could understand her decision.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I read over 60% of this story and felt like it really was going nowhere.Published 3 months ago by Witzerklutz
Very disappointed in this novel. Whoever edited the book should be looking for work in another occupation. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Gail Driscoll
I borrowed the electronic version from my library and read it on the Kindle App. It was good for a free library book. I liked the story and how easily it flowed.Published 6 months ago by Priscilla
Quite a good read - solidly plotted and with interesting and engaging characters.Published 8 months ago by nantis5
This book is a slow readout that's ok because the writing is amazing. Strory line might be difficult for some .Published 8 months ago by Sheila burke
It seemed to get close to revelation and then never quite touch it. Some good observations though, enough to get me to read to the end, but I am not sure I am any the wiser for it.Published 13 months ago by Kindle Customer