The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen

The Grief of OthersWhen I completed reading the Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels, I wanted to carry on so created my own list of 100.  The new list includes those recommended by other bloggers, some I’d always meant to read and some from other’s considered classic.

I like to read book reviews and oftentimes will jot down a title that sounds entertaining.  This explains how The Grief of Others, recently published in 2011, made it to my current list.  Ironically, the prior week’s read, Jennie Gerhardt, was published in 1911 but I believed the 100 year difference would make no matter as a well written book is a well written book regardless of its publication date.

I like to argue with those who says there is no good music coming out today and point them in the direction of college radio and other publicly supported medias.  In a similar fashion, of the books published in the last five years, those I considered remarkable were not found on any bestseller’s lists, but in independent reviews found in obscure magazines.  The Grief of Others has reportedly sold over 1,000,000 copies and received rave reviews that I, unfortunately do not share.

A woman gives birth to an anencephalic boy who survives a mere 57 hours.  The mother has withheld information from the father and their relationship unravels.  Two other children deal with the death in their own ways and two outsiders become insiders and deal with their grief.  The opening was quite moving, but followed with an overabundance of metaphors, characters that did not feel sincere and a few editing blunders.  While the storyline was unique and wrought with emotion, it didn’t feel genuine.  I prefer getting lost in a book and here I was quite aware I was reading a work of fiction.

The deceitful mother, Erica Ryrie, is the family breadwinner.  She holds an unfulfilling, yet good paying position in finance that allows her husband to work at set directing at a local community college.  Although resentful of her husband, she remains very passionate which seemed somewhat incongruous.  She seems unaware that her two living children are alive and in need of a mother.

Fifth grader, Elizabeth “Biscuit”  Ryrie, was the most interesting of the bunch, though still not too believable.  She has been cutting school and reacts to her family’s reserve over her brother’s death by doing library research on burial rituals and then attempts to reenact them.  I can’t imagine a 10-year-old skipping school or doing research.  I do love that she was a library fan.

A local 19-year-old, Gordie Joiner, happens upon Biscuit during her reenactment and comes to her aid after his dog knocks her into the Hudson.  His father has died recently so his grief is a common denominator with the Ryrie family.  His inner thoughts questioning his sexuality just didn’t ring true for me.  There was not much closure for this character, but I found myself not caring much.

I am sure I would enjoy the company of Ms. Cohen and would be interested in hearing about her rise from journalism student to published author.  Perhaps we could conduct our meeting signing in lieu of an actual discussion.  Since she is trained in sign language and I am not, I’d let her do all the talking so as to avoid me having to share any of my opinions.

My rating for The Grief of Others  is a 7 out of 10.

Please share your own reviews or  comments by using the link below.

Next up, Toni Morrison’s Beloved…Beloved


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