Review: The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen

September 13, 2011 General Fiction, Riverhead Books 10

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover (September 15, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 1594488053
  • Source:  Publisher

Fifty-seven hours after he was born, John & Ricky’s infant son died, a victim of anencephaly, a neural tube defect.  He was born with just a portion of his brain, missing the top part of his skull.

The entire Ryrie family is devastated by the loss.  What was more devastating,  however, was the secret Ricky kept from her husband. Not the first time she’s evaded his trust, she believes she is sound in her decision.  When the truth is revealed, John & Ricky discover their marriage has long been rocky, the death of their newborn son bringing these long-buried truths to the surface.

The true victims of this struggle are John & Ricky’s children, Paul & Elizabeth, aka Biscuit.  They are each acting out in their own way, their parents oblivious to the fact that they see how their relationship has changed in the year since their infant brother passed away.

One afternoon, the unannounced arrival of their half-sister, in turmoil due to her own life circumstances, adds a completely different element to the family’s saga. It is her presence that reminds them how happy they were in the past, things that transpire in her life, that force the Ryrie family to attempt to come together as one once again, to heal and recover, as a complete family, rather than separate individuals.

While I truly felt sympathy for the loss the Ryrie family experienced, I found it hard to feel a great deal of sympathy for them, as individuals. I was unable to connect with them as individuals, although the author spent a good deal of time detailing and developing their characters.  As a mother, I felt a great deal of anger toward Ricky.  I can’t even begin to imagine what sort of pain she experienced in carrying a child to term, only to lose him hours later.  However, she completely ignored and neglected her family, throwing herself into her career.  Her family was literally falling apart right before her eyes and she appeared to be completely oblivious to this. Admittedly, this is a true & valid response to loss, but I simply couldn’t get over my anger with Ricky to perhaps see past the faults and see through to the other members of the family.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy this book; the fact the author could elicit such strong feelings from a reader is a testament to their writing. Overall, the author’s writing was stunning, the detail she used in describing aspects of the story was tremendous. Recommended.

Check out the  Leah’s website, her blog, Love as a Found Object, and Facebook.

Be sure to check out the other stops in this tour:

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



10 Responses to “Review: The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen”

  1. Laurel-Rain Snow
    Twitter: laurelrainsnow

    I have had the same experience with books….reacting very strongly to one or more characters. Even disliking them. And as you point out, this kind of reaction could only be elicited by a talented author.

    I’m looking forward to this book, which I should be receiving this week. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Pam (@iwriteinbooks)

    I sort of just skimmed this because I’m about to read it. I’m coming back to it when I’m done. I’m hoping for a more enthusiastic turnout than you had. :O/

  3. jenn aka the picky girl
    Twitter: picky_girl

    I have read a couple of really sad, grief-filled books lately and determined they’re just not my thing. They are totally draining, and just…not. Can’t do it.

  4. Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours
    Twitter: age30books

    Beautiful writing is always a good thing! I’m glad that it made the book worth reading even if you didn’t totally connect with the story. Thanks for being on the tour Jenn! (And happy BBAW to you!)