Monday, September 26, 2011

The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen

The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen (Rated: P, S)
Riverhead Books
ISBN: 978-1594488054
Published Sept 15, 2011
Hardcover, 384 pages

John and Ricky Ryrie lose their third child only fifty-seven hours after it was born. This loss, and the secret Ricky kept from her husband about the baby's condition test their disintegrating marriage and affect the lives of their 10 and 14 year-old children. But when John's daughter from a previous relationship comes back into their lives pregnant, the isolation in this family begins to dissolve.

This book started out really good but gradually after the first hundred pages it became tedious reading for me. The story seemed to lose its momentum and continuity. I didn't care much for Ricky. I thought Ricky was selfish the way she kept that secret from her family, and I felt it was a domino affect from there. Even before this baby's conception she was unfaithful and took her husband for granted. She set up her family to believe one thing and then left them to deal with the aftermath when it didn't happen. I can understand a person making mistakes, but she seemed calculating in the way she made hers, without thought to how it would affect her family, her children.

The sense of loss is heavy in this book permeating every scene. It wasn't just the loss of the baby but the way the characters dealt with their lives and the disconnect of the family unit. No one was happy. I felt for Biscuit, the ten year-old daughter who was left to grieve and figure things out on her own. I felt the story could have moved along more quickly without all the details about every thought a character had that I didn't care to know. Some of those details were so brutally honest that I felt like a peeping Tom with no right to know certain things. Having said all this, I do think the author was insightful about building her characters, and she created interesting ones, realistic in their reactions, especially John and his teen son.

Finally two thirds into the book, I only skimmed through it to see how it ended. Although this book got some great reviews, I was left disappointed. What's more, the text is scattered with profanity (F-words especially) and some explicit references to sexual activities, all of which I felt tainted the author's lyrical writing and was unnecessary.

To read more reviews of this book, follow the tour here.

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); American Library Association Ten Best Books of the Year; and a Booksense 76 Pick. She is a frequent contributor to the New York Times Book Review.

Visit Leah at her website,, and read her blog, Love as a Found Object. Join Leah’s fanpage on Facebook.

Disclosure: Thanks to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.

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  1. When I first saw this book, I thought it sounded emotional but interesting. Now I am not so sure. After reading your review, I am not sure it is a book for me either. It sounds kind of depressing. Thanks for the honest review.

  2. I think I would really need to be in the mood to try this one. It sounds interesting, but I'm a little worried about reading it. I don't think it is really my type of book.

  3. That sounds like a heavy book, filled with grief. I'd have to be in the right mood to read it.

  4. I'm sorry this book slowed down for you - it sounds like the beginning was quite good.

    Thanks for your honest review. Hopefully your next read will be a better fit.

  5. Sorry the book lost it's appeal! I might find a copy just to find out what the secret was. I know I won't be able to get it out of my mind!

  6. @Vicki - Just read any of the Amazon reviews and you will know what the secret is.

  7. It's amazing how two people can read the same book and have such different takes on it . . . that is the power of reading!

    Although the book was sad overall, I enjoyed it. I thought it was an honest look at grief through the eyes of various characters.

    I felt sorry for Ricky, she made some bad choices in her life, but she also made good choices. She loved her family and was very accepting of her husband's daughter from a previous relationship.

    Honestly, I thought it was terrible that she kept the secret from her husband, but I could see how a mother could do something like that. Be in denial hoping that your baby would be born okay.

    Good review!


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