Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen

 The Grief of Others is a lyrical, beautifully written novel about the ripples of grief that flow through a family after the death of the newest addition.

The Ryrie family lives in the state of New York in a Hudson River community. While Ricky works long days in the financial community leaving before her family rises and returning home after dinner, John works at his dream job building stages for productions at a local college. They have two children, Paul and Elizabeth, better known as Biscuit. Their third child is born missing a part of his brain, and little Simon Isaac only lives for fifty-seven hours.

The Grief of Others explores the lives of the Ryrie family before, during, and after the crisis. While Ricky and John try to move on while shielding their two remaining children, they find that certain lies from their past prove it to be a difficult task. In trying to protect Paul and Biscuit, they didn’t allow for any closure over the life lost of little Simon. Biscuit is only ten, but has had a difficult year in which she constantly skips school. Paul is entering his teens and has lost most of his friends through the year and finds himself a constant target of bullying at school.

Into the midst of all of these trials, John’s eldest daughter by a different woman shows up alone and pregnant. Jess was raised by her mother, but had one great summer vacation with the Ryrie family eight years before. She is not sure what she is trying to find by seeking out her “alternate” family, but the Ryries find themselves responding to her in different ways. The family also befriends young Gordie, a young man that has also experienced loss through the death of his father.

This novel was overall a sad book, but I enjoyed reading it (although that sounds perverse). I thought the writing itself was beautiful and I thought each character was complex and compelling. The narrative shifts between characters and I enjoyed reading about them all. My one complaint is that I wanted to learn more about all of the characters, why did the book have to end? Each one could have had a book alone about them. I thought the ending was good, but I could have continued to read more about them, particularly about Gordie.

While The Grief of Others was a great look at the complications of loss and grief, it was also an in-depth look at marriage, raising children, and growing up. I particularly felt pulled by Paul’s story. He had become an unpopular boy through the course of a year and was verbally harassed all of the time. It was sad, and made me worry about my own kids in the future. I thought Cohen did an excellent job of really relating well to all characters, even the younger ones.
As a mother, this particular line really touched me, “it is the realization that of all the innumerable sweetnesses the world will offer her children, the vast majority will go unwitnessed by her.” Children grow up too fast!

I read The Grief of Others as part of the TLC Book Tour.  For more stops on the tour, please check out the master schedule.

Book Source: Review Copy from the Penguin Group.  Thank-you!


  1. Laura, excellent review! This does sound like a book I'd also enjoy, even though it's sad, because of the beautiful writing and characters.

  2. I pick this book up every time I'm at a book store, LOL. It looks good and it sounds like something I would really like. That's saying a lot that each of the characters could have their book about them. Fantastic review!

  3. I'm glad you enjoyed this one because I had a hard time with it. It started with a bang for me but then lost its appeal. I did not like Ricky at all.

  4. Love this part of your review: "Why did the book have to end?" I think that says a whole lot about the book!

    Thanks for being on the tour!

  5. I thought Ricky was an interesting character. She made some bad choices in her life, but she also had a lot of good (such as accepting her husband's daughter). I felt bad for her as I can't imagine losing a baby like that, and I also felt bad for her that she was the breadwinner who never had time to be home with her family.

  6. Your review has me wanting to read this. The fact that you hated to see it end tells me it is a good read. It does sound emotional and sad but I love when a book makes me feel so much emotion. Great review.