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The Grief of Others

3.34  ·  Rating Details ·  2,367 Ratings  ·  399 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 an
Paperback, 384 pages
Published January 3rd 2012 by Clerkenwell Press (first published 2011)
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Sep 27, 2011 Jill rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Grief of Others reminds me of an elegant package, with layers and layers of exquisite paper. Yet when everything is opened, what remains is a mystery box, something that entices and at the same time, disappoints.

The writing is, indeed, beautiful. The story opens with Ricky Ryrie in a hospital bed, holding her newborn son who is fated to die within the next few hours. “The whorls of his ears were as marvelously convoluted as any Echer drawing, the symmetry precise, the lobs little as teardrop
Jan 04, 2012 Alison rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For the first 100 pages I thought the writing was beautiful, but by the last 100 it started to feel like it was breaking under the weight of its own self-importance. The language could be beautiful, but it never took the characters anywhere. Characters that intrigued me in the beginning were boring me by the end. The author kept saying that John and Ricky were madly in love at one point, but there was never tangible evidence of it. If there had been, I might have been more deeply invested in the ...more
Jul 17, 2012 Larraine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Yet another book that I picked up on impulse at the library - and I'm so glad I did. I've discovered another superb writer in Leah Hager Cohen
It's a story of grief - over the loss of a child, the chill in a marriage, and how the surviving children are affected. Ms. Cohen writes so gently and, at the same time, is strong and even cold-blooded in her dissection of the characters.

We meet the mother in the maternity ward as she holds her newborn son who is doomed to live only a few days. Born anen
Gayla Bassham
The problem with having a near-brilliant first five pages is that the rest of the book might not live up to it. The first five pages of this book are devastating--it really is the fastest a book has ever made me cry--and beautiful and real. But much of the rest of the book doesn't live up to it. I loved Ricky, but we don't spend much time with her; the author chooses instead to give us pages and pages with her husband John, her children Paul and Biscuit (the cutesy nickname makes me wince, but t ...more
I liked this well enough up to the last five pages. Instead of ending the story where it was, which would have worked, Leah Hager Cohen steps in with an omniscient voice to say she has intended the ambiguities and lack of resolution she now points out, which strikes me as patronizing, parting the curtain so we can understand the mind of the author. I thought the opposite, that the story is a little too pat, perhaps, the assurance of depth notwithstanding.

The voice of 10-year-old Biscuit is wron
switterbug (Betsey)
What is grief? It has no physical properties, but it fills a room, a life, many lives, and creates pain. It's bigger than a boulder, but is amorphous. You can't domesticate or quarantine grief, but it can isolate, alienate, afflict. The sun rises and sets, our shadows shorten and lengthen, but grief reaches into darkness and obscures the light. Its stride is long and its span is spacious, but it has no measure. Grief is timeless, but time heals, according to the maxim.

This novel is about a famil
Feb 17, 2012 Kat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of my favourite types of novel: a contemporary story, told from multiple perspectives, with compleling complex characters. I always thought that this type of book was called a novel of manners, but, when I looked up the definition, maybe not. In any case this is a fine example of such a novel, whatever its genre might be called.
It starts out with a heart-breaking description of the short life (57 hours) of Simon Ryrie, who is born without a brain stem. So you think maybe the hard par
T. Greenwood
Oct 06, 2011 T. Greenwood rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up, honestly, because the description of it made it sound like a medley of my own work...including a character who makes dioramas? Wow! Kindred author spirits :) And now, I am so pleased I did. This novel is a painfully acute portrait of a family in crisis. The writing is terrific. And the end, while heart-breaking, is exactly what it needs to be. My only complaint was that I found the character of Ricky difficult to like...but in one brief scene, she redeems herself painfully ...more
I'd give it 4 stars .

I loved this book.
I was blown away by Cohen's writing, every word seemed to pull me in. Her prose is beautiful.
And I found the characters to be intricate yet so down to earth and relatable. I was really impressed by how the story went on, it looked like they were writing it and living it at the moment.

I had no expectations about this book. I picked it up at the library and read the back cover, it seemed ok, the kind of plot I like, etcetera.
Instead, it was so much mor
Feb 12, 2014 Beth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
When he was born he was alive. That was one thing.
He was a
he, too, astonishingly--not that anyone expected him to be otherwise, but the notion of one so elemental, so small, carrying the complex mantle of gender seemed preposterous, the designation "male" the linguistic equivalent of a false mustache fixed above his infant lip.
His lips, how barely pink they were, the pink of the rim of the sky at winter dusk. And their curl--in the way that the upper lip rose to peaks and dipped down again, tw
Apr 15, 2012 Sophia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I came to The Grief of Others with mixed feelings. With a title like this, I was afraid I might be letting myself in for a deeply depressing experience. However, though this book was imbued with tragedy, the excellence of the writing meant I never regretted my decision to read it.

The story opens with the death of a baby, after just 57 hours of fragile life, and deals with the events, feelings, guilt and recriminations of his family in the time leading up to and following his death. Ricky, his mo
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 19, 2014 Frances rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I read a review of Leah Hager Cohen’s novel "The Grief of Others," I was curious how it would compare to Jonathan Franzen’s "Freedom." The books possess similar elements, a fraying family, suburbia, secrets. As readers of Booking Around are aware, I did not like "Freedom." I felt differently about The Grief of Others.

The Ryries live outside of New York City in a pleasant neighborhood and have two children. John also has an elder daughter from a relationship in college and the Ryries have ju
Dec 16, 2015 Carol rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The book skips around in time, and repeats scenes from the perspectives of different characters. This could be a provocative technique, but here it adds little to the overall experience. Late in the book, the narrative travels back eight years to show us, in real time, a family vacation that's been alluded to throughout the book. What should be a climactic and revelatory scene comes off flat and dull and my main reaction was annoyance.

I think Cohen realized that her core story lacked excitement
Oct 16, 2011 Pam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

I started reading this earlier this week and I almost emailed Trisha to say I couldn’t handle this, right now. I’m glad that I pushed on, though because, aside from the obvious hard topics (hello, it’s called The GRIEF of Others), the story is a fabulous one.

The hardest part for me was the axis of the story, centered on the loss of a couple’s child only fifty-seven hours after birth, just struck so close to my current fear and personal situation. The death
Oct 31, 2011 Laurel-Rain rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loss presents itself in its many forms throughout this portrait of a family: the Ryries, who live in Nyack, NY, and seemingly live ordinary lives.

When their third child is born anencephalic, his death is a certainty. In fact, he lives for fifty-seven hours.

Then the family shifts into everyday life, with scarcely a blink, and their separate grief unfolds in symptomatic ways that reveal the testing of the bonds that connect them.

"The Grief of Others" is narrated in alternating perspectives, moving
Oct 26, 2011 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Grief of Others is a heartbreaking story about the death of a newborn, and how such a loss affects the entire family. Ricky and John Ryrie's newborn son dies just days after birth, as a result of a serious birth defect. While this situation in itself would be painful enough to deal with, for the Ryries the situation is made worse by the fact, Ricky knew her risk was high for having an infant that might not survive, yet she chose to keep the info to herself, just in case the tests, indicating ...more
Jan 20, 2012 Ellyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
This novel tells the story of the Ryrie family. After their infant son dies at 57 hours of age due to a birth defect, John and Ricky, and their children Paul and Biscuit, attempt to resume normal life and pretend nothing has happened while each is trying to deal with their own grief and sense of loss. John and Ricky struggle to maintain their marriage in the face of a painful secret, while Paul deals with bullying and Biscuit begins skipping school. Meanwhile, John's daughter from a long-ago rel ...more
The Grief of Others explores the breakdown of communication that typically results during periods of loss, no matter what the cause of the loss. Everyone handles loss differently, and through the eyes of six different characters, Ms. Cohen showcases the various ways others are affected by a typically internalized feeling. Often heartbreaking, The Grief of Others comes across as a warning shot to others who may be experiencing similar emotional upheaval.

Unfortunately, what starts out as poignant
Oct 12, 2011 Lauren rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Challenge: Read the first chapter of this book without crying.

I am LOVING this book, which I discovered in Amazon's list of "Recommended for You." I think Cohen's writing is stunning, and her characters are interesting and nuanced. And the first chapter just killed me. It is about a mother and her newborn, who was born with a fatal brain defect and lived for just two days. Beautifully written.


Update: My early impressions of the book were accurate. This book is amazing -- exactly the kind of
Dec 11, 2012 Candice rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The writing was absolutely beautiful. There is much sadness in this book, but it is so exquisitely expressed. It's the story of a marriage, and the story of the effect of a baby's death on a family.

The book begins with a beautifully written passage on the birth and death of a baby. It flashes forward a year to "This Year", and then back to the time of the baby's short life, "Last Year" and back again to "This Year." We get a good picture of what has been happening with the family.

When Ricky Ryr
Dec 23, 2011 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Ryries tries to go back to their ordinary life, after losing their baby at birth at just fifty seven hours. Pretending that their that family is normal, they make out what is best for their children. Paul who is the oldest child is going through peer pressure at school and he only has one friend that would make his school life bearable. Their youngest daughter Biscuit who is not all that innocent as she appears to be, multiple of times she has tried to drown away her sorrows. Rick and John`s ...more
Kami Tilby
Do you remember folding a paper in thirds, drawing a head, then passing the paper onto another person who wasn't allowed to see what you drew, who then drew a body, and the last person, not seeing either drawing, added legs? The picture you end up with is oddly incongruous, the parts don't fit together, although each part is great by itself. That's how this novel felt. There was such lovely writing, with a voice clear and lyrical and then this other voice would intrude, with it's harsh notes and ...more
Jan 09, 2012 M rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hager Cohen is your classic 3.5 star writer. Her language is beautiful, her plots lagging. Her characters are well sketched, yet not that interesting. You feel as though you are reading a classic, except it doesn't actually contain that much.
I enjoyed this book well enough - it was an insightful and actually interesting look at a conflict where a wife finds out her unborn child will have a horrible and fatal defect and she decides not to tell her husband lest he insist she abort - I think thi
Jan 10, 2012 Birgit rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A skilled portrayal of a married couple and their kids following the death of their youngest child. For all her skill at delving deep into the motivation, frustrations and personality of each character,
I felt manipulated by the closing chapter. In it, the author for the first time addresses the reader with "What else do you want to know?" as if we were nothing but voyeurs along for the ride. She turns the mirror on us, and we're given a laundry list of mundane events among strangers, which is re
Alisha Kennedy
Apr 11, 2016 Alisha Kennedy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I never want to dissuade anyone from reading any book so I say keep in mind this is just my opinion. There were a couple times I almost quit reading it but that would bother me more, lol. The whole book was an examination of one families emotions, for example a child got picked on and then there are three pages of how he feels about it and why he feels that way. This read was just to deep for me.
Chris Witkowski
Deft writing, for sure, about a subject rife with emotion- the loss of a child, the unraveling of a marriage, the pain of children struggling with unspoken sorrows of their parents along with the anguish of growing up- but the writing is oddly dry and at times boring. A common theme running through the novel is the characters' need for redemption, to feel worthy in the eyes of others. I can't say I really understood this and found it strange so many of them had this need-maybe that's why they we ...more
Nov 04, 2014 Janet rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this. So many times I pick up books about the struggles of families, only to find them very trite and predictable with no real deep emotional engagement. This, on the other hand, is so real and complex. I ended it feeling like I knew all the characters personally and had just spent time with them. This book doesn't distill the problems and issues this family faces into "good" or "bad" or solve them all neatly by the end--it's complicated, full of gray areas, and influenced by each characte ...more
Jul 29, 2014 Monica rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Okay, so I will be honest and say I did not finish it, but I am finished with it. I mistakenly updated my Kindle, meaning to finish this book before syncing (I borrowed it from the library), and then lost it. I considered borrowing it again, but then I asked myself, "why?" I was 57% done with the book when I updated, and still didn't care about any of the characters or what happened to them. Although, I usually keep plugging along when I have invested that much time, it is not worth it. The writ ...more
This book struck a real chord with me, stirring memories from my own childhood. This is the story of a family struggling to cope with the death of a few days old infant. The author explores the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of each family member as they each struggle with their unspoken, largely ignored, grief. Their silence, and the failure to share this mourning, has a lasting impact on each of them. A year after the death, their continued individual struggles threaten their ability to con ...more
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Leah Hager Cohen has written four non-fiction books, including Train Go Sorry and Glass, Paper, Beans, and four novels, including House Lights and The Grief of Others.

She serves as the Jenks Chair in Contemporary American Letters at the College of the Holy Cross, and teaches in the Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at Lesley University. She is a frequent contributor to the New York Tim
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“... she saw that Ricky had not wheeled the little stool any distance from the bed but sat as close as before, gazing at her with sorrow and without judgment. And now Ricky plucked thoughtfully at her own lip, and drew a breath and gazed hard at the blanket, seeming to lose herself in contemplation of some deep and powerful interest, as though whatever she was working out was not for Jess's sake only. When she looked up she said: 'That might be harder.' [p. 352l” 1 likes
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