The Ryrie family has suffered the tragic loss of a baby just a few days after his birth. Mother and father Ricky and John are trying to desperately maintain normalcy in their family, despite the fact that their marriage is falling apart and neither one of them has figured out how to deal with their grief. Their older child, thirteen-year-old Paul, is an outcast at his school and dealing with his own grief in some interesting ways. Their younger daughter, Biscuit, is confused about why her baby brother never came home from the hospital and begins acting out to display her confusion and anger. When an unexpected family member arrives at their front door, the Ryrie family must come together and try to understand what one another is feeling, as their family dynamic is unraveling rather quickly.
The Grief of Others is a beautifully written novel about one family’s inability to heal from a devastating loss. Each member of the family is dealing with this loss in their own way; some more healthy and productive than others. The other big issue in the novel is that Ricky kept a huge secret from John throughout her pregnancy, a secret which later comes back to haunt her and one which causes John to look at her completely differently after he finds out.
The characters in this novel are incredibly realistic, almost depressingly so. They are each so deep into their grief that they cannot see what the rest of their family members are dealing with. This is particularly troubling for John and Ricky, as they have two small kids who don’t totally understand what happened to their baby brother. The fact that John and Ricky couldn’t help their children grieve, couldn’t even support them emotionally, absolutely broke my heart. This actually made it difficult for me to connect to these characters, as I was so frustrated by their actions. Leah Hagar Cohen did such an excellent job portraying their emotions and making them believable to me, but I still could not connect to either of them because they just made such poor choices when it came to supporting their children emotionally.
As I briefly mentioned, the writing in The Grief of Others is just gorgeous. Leah Hagar Cohen completely draws the reader in with her prose, and I was captivated by this sad story from the moment I turned the first page. Although I had a difficult time with some of the characters, I will say that she effectively got into each of their heads and illustrated their emotional journeys, even the children. By the end of the novel, I felt that I knew this family intimately and although I didn’t love all of them, I certainly felt their pain.
The Grief of Others is a novel that is difficult to forget. The writing is wonderful and although I had a difficult time with some of the characters, ultimately they were incredibly realistic and their grief was palpable. I can definitely recommend this novel.