Monday, October 3, 2011

The Grief of Others: A Novel by Leah Hager Cohen

About book:

It begins with loss.  John ad 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 terrible secret emerges concerning what Ricky knew about her pregnancy and concealed from everyone, even John.  And the couple's two older children, struggling to understand the tensions around them, begin to act out in their own idiosyncratic ways.  Ultimately, though, the grief that was initially so isolating allows 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 has within it the power to draw us together.

My thoughts:

This is a sad and rather depressing book.  It tells the story of the Ryrie's difficult and heartbreaking loss of their third child - a son who lived for 57 hours after being born with anencephaly.  Reeling from this devastating loss, the family find themselves grieving individually and disconnecting from one another.  Ricky and John (the parents) try to pretend to move forward with their lives by continuing to work and presenting a united front to those around them.  Meanwhile, their children, Paul and Biscuit, are having to deal with this loss all on their own.  They don't truly comprehend what happened to their baby brother, but have no one to talk with about it.  And they can't help but notice the mounting tension growing bigger and bigger every day between their parents.  You see, Ricky has been keeping a huge secret and when it finally comes to light, John can no longer look at her the same way.  And soon, we are privy to a set of lies that has been looming over this family for years and has finally come out to either break them apart or bring them closer. 

This is definitely a difficult book to get through, because you don't care for any of the characters.  Well, except for Paul and Biscuit.  Kids shouldn't be left to deal with grief all on their own, especially when they are unable to fully understand what has even happened.   I suppose it just goes to show how selfish Ricky and John could be - ignorant of the pain and sadness enveloping their children's lives. 
Overall, this was a well written book about the topic of grief and how it is handled within a family.  I felt that Cohen explored the different ways people deal with loss superbly.  She created characters that were unlikeable, but fully developed and quite realistically flawed.  The tone and flow of the story was slow and depressing, which fit in perfectly with the story lines.  And the fact that the book was difficult to get through shows just how engaging it was to read, even though it took a toll on your emotions.  Definitely a book I would recommend.
Thank you to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for providing me with a copy of the book!


Anonymous said...

"And the fact that the book was difficult to get through shows just how engaging it was to read, even though it took a toll on your emotions." Oh yes, I agree! In my opinion it is a sign of the author's skill that she got you so emotional through this book.

Thanks for being a part of the tour!

Ti said...

I don't have a problem reading books like this one, IF I like the characters. You said you didn't though, so that makes me think that I won't either.

What kind of a name is Biscuit? LOL.

Nadia said...

heathertlc, I agree! Definitely shows what an amazing author Cohen is. Thanks for having me on the tour :)

Toyin O., thanks!

Ti, its weird, because when I don't like the characters I can't really get into the book, but there was just something about this one that really captured my attention. But, I dig what you are saying.

Tom Cunliffe said...

Oops! Sounds like one I probably won't read!

A very interesting and informative review however. Its hard to knock a book when the publisher has sent it to you isn't it!

Bellezza said...

Such an interesting theme, from the first description in your About The Book...then I got to the lines where you said it was so depressing (kids left alone to deal with grief? ugh!) and I can only imagine that to be the case. Sounds very heavy...like you'd have to be in a good place in your life to pick it up. Or, a very bad place to feel sympathetic.

Nadia said...

Tom, I didn't think this one would be your cup of tea :) Thanks for popping by!

Bellezza, I know! Its crazy to leave children to deal with so much and not be there for when they need you - talk about bad parenting. Its definitely a book to read when you are already depressed or so happy that the moodiness of the book won't affect you. It was an interesting read to say the least.