Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen

The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen

Release Date
: September 15th, 2011
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover
Source: TLC Book Tours
Buy It: Book Depository
When John and Ricky's son dies just 57 hours after he is born they try to return to their lives, but their marriage and their family have never been quite as intact as they pretended and soon a terrible secret emerges with implications that reach far into their past and threaten their future.
If the title of this novel, The Grief of Others, doesn't state it clearly enough- this is not a happy book. What it is instead is an emotional, deep, and moving tale of tragedy, loss, and light struggling to emerge from darkness.

From the beginning, I found myself entranced by Cohen's story, the complex emotional intricacies it dissects and develops. But the problem was that the story seemed to end far before the novel did. After about a third, possibly half, way into the book, the magic faded. There was a lot of time spent on a flashback to an event, a summer at the beach, that I felt I was already familiar with from the way it had been referenced previously, and having to spend all this time reading about it didn't add anything new to the story and lost my attention from The Grief of Others in a way that it never recovered from.

As beautiful, rich but with a sharp edge, as Cohen's writing is, there were times when I found it didn't fit quite right for the story. For example, sometimes the language was a bit too advance for the characters, like when in the context of Biscuit thinking of somebody's voice it is described as "a water voice, trickling and eddying and cool." when I wasn't convinced the ten year girl would really know (and use in normal thought) the word eddying. Or other times when obscure brands are mentioned, cookies I had never heard of or supplies to do with set design, language that doesn't add anything to the story but rather detracts by jarring the reader out of the novel with their confusion.

Overall, I was enchanted by Cohen's writing but found the storytelling itself lacking at times. In the end I find myself conflicted over The Grief of Others, because as difficult as it was to finish it started with a beautiful flourish. Although this is a book I'm unlikely to recommend, it has still left me admiring Cohen's way with words and I am potentially willing to try another book by her in the future.

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