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The Grief of Others Hardcover – September 15, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


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 With this incredibly moving commentary, Cohen has secured a place in the lineup of today's great writers. Bookpage 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 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 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' The Grief of Others has a lyrical bent and is affecting in its examination of unresolved sorrow The Age, Australia --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Leah Hager Cohen is the author of four nonfiction books, including Train Go Sorry and Glass, Paper, Beans, and three novels, most recently House Lights. Among the honors her books have received are selection as a New York Times Notable Book (four times); inclusion in the American Library Association Ten Best Books of the Year; and selection as a Book Sense 76 pick. She is a frequent contributor to The New York Times Book Review.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books (September 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594488053
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594488054
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,171,674 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Leah Hager Cohen is the author of five works of nonfiction, including TRAIN GO SORRY and I DON'T KNOW: IN PRAISE OF ADMITTING IGNORANCE (EXCEPT WHEN YOU SHOULDN'T), and five novels, including THE GRIEF OF OTHERS, which was longlisted for the Orange Prize and the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and a finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and NO BOOK BUT THE WORLD.

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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Nitty's Mom TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"The Grief of Others" is a multidimensional family drama. This is an ensemble piece, with no one character any more important than the other.

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.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Karie Hoskins VINE VOICE on October 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
When I picked up "The Grief of Others", I had finished another book and just needed another 10 minutes or so of reading to put me to sleep. This was in my "To Be Reviewed" pile and I was sure that I'd read a page or two and then choose something else a bit more mindless for that last bit of reading time.

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 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...
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jill I. Shtulman TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The Grief of Others reminds me of an elegant package, with layers and layers of exquisite paper. Yet when everything is opened, what remains is a mystery box, something that entices and at the same time, disappoints.

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.
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