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The Grief of Othersby Leah Hager Cohen
Synopses & Reviews
Is keeping a secret from a spouse always an act of infidelity? And what cost does such a secret exact on a family?
The Ryries have suffered a loss: the death of a baby just fifty-seven hours after his birth. Without words to express their grief, the parents, John and Ricky, try to return to their previous lives. Struggling to regain a semblance of normalcy for themselves and for their two older children, they find themselves pretending not only that little has changed, but that their marriage, their family, have always been intact, that the loss of a child had no lasting impact. Yet in the aftermath, long-suppressed uncertainties about their relationship come roiling to the surface. A dreadful secret emerges with reverberations that reach far into their past and threaten their future.
The couples children, ten-year-old Biscuit and thirteen-year-old Paul, responding to the unnamed tensions around them, begin to act out in exquisitely—perhaps courageously—idiosyncratic ways. But as the four family members scatter into private, isolating grief, an unexpected visitor arrives, and they all find themselves growing more alert to the sadness and burdens of others—to the grief that is part of every human life but that also carries within it the power to draw us together.
Moving, psychologically acute, and gorgeously written, The Grief of Others asks how we balance personal autonomy with the intimacy of relationships, how we balance private decisions with the obligations of belonging to a family, and how we take measure of our own sorrows in a world rife with suffering. This novel shows how one family, by finally allowing itself to experience the shared quality of grief, is able to rekindle tenderness and hope and are able to overcome their grief.
Lush, dark and unsettling, No Book but the World haunted me for days. With great skill, Leah Hager Cohen takes us through a twisty and resonant tale about the price of secrets, the burden of family, the remnants of childhood we never leave behind.” —Megan Abbott, author of The End of Everything and Dare Me
At the edge of a woods, on the grounds of a defunct free school,” Ava and her brother, Fred, shared a dreamy and seemingly idyllic childhood—a world defined largely by their imaginations and each others presence. Everyone is aware of Freds oddness or vague impairment, but his parents fierce disapproval of labels keeps him free of evaluation or intervention, and constantly at Avas side.
Decades later, then, when Ava learns that her brother is being held in a county jail for a shocking crime, she is frantic to piece together what actually happened. A boy is dead. But could Fred really have done what he is accused of? As she is drawn deeper into the details of the crime, Ava becomes obsessed with learning the truth, convinced that she and she alone will be able to reach her brother and explain him—and his innocence—to the world.
Leah Hager Cohen brings her trademark intelligence to a psychologically gripping, richly ambiguous story that suggests we may ultimately understand one another best not with facts alone, but through our imaginations.
A short, concise book in favor of honoring doubt and admitting when the answer is: I dont know.
In a tight, enlightening narrative, Leah Hager Cohen explores why, so often, we attempt to hide our ignorance, and why, in so many different areas, we would be better off coming clean. Weaving entertaining, anecdotal reporting with eye-opening research, she considers both the ramifications of and alternatives to this ubiquitous habit in arenas as varied as education, finance, medicine, politics, warfare, trial courts, and climate change. But its more than just encouraging readers to confess their ignorance—Cohen proposes that we have much to gain by embracing uncertainty. Three little words can in fact liberate and empower, and increase the possibilities for true communication. So much becomes possible when we honor doubt.
About the Author
Leah Hager Cohen is the author of the novel Heat Lightning and of three acclaimed works of non-fiction, Train Go Sorry; Glass, Paper, Beans; and The Stuff of Dreams. She lives with her three children near Boston.
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