Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Grief” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.59  ·  Rating Details ·  686 Ratings  ·  113 Reviews
Reeling from the recent death of his invalid mother, an exhausted, lonely professor comes to Washington, D.C. to escape his previous life. What he finds there — in his handsome, solitary landlord; in the city's somber mood and sepulchral architecture; and in the strange and impassioned journals of Mary Todd Lincoln — shows him unexpected truths about America and loss.

Hardcover, 160 pages
Published June 6th 2006 by Hachette Books (first published May 31st 2006)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Grief, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Grief

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Oct 06, 2014 Will rated it it was amazing
I didn't think I'd bother reviewing this, but the reviews of the book are just so fucking stupid. What type of illiterate moron thinks a novel called Grief (and let me repeat: the novel is called Grief, not Over the Fucking Moon Happy) is bad because—wait for it—it's too sad? Or how about this one?: it has too much AIDS. And?: it's gay. This is like whining that Beloved has too many black people in it. "Yeah, that whole slavery thing—too sad!"

And yet, I don't actually feel like contributing anyt
Jeffrey Richards
Jan 09, 2008 Jeffrey Richards rated it it was amazing
I love this book, one of my favorites that I've read in the past couple of years and I've read it twice now. Some of the reviews have stated that this book is "barren" and "stilted" and that the narrator is wallowing in his grief. Well, welcome to grief. It's not all wails and tantrums and insights. A good portion of the time we become stunned by grief, which may be viewed as barren or stilted or even wallowing when we can't get out of it quick enough. What's so wonderfully beautiful about this ...more
May 24, 2008 Lewis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Unlike other writers, Holleran knows he doesn't have to hit the reader over the head to get his ideas across: it's much more effective to crawl under our skin. Grief is a deceptively simple book–short, thematically focused, with only a minimal plotline–but the cumulative effect is powerful and devastating. As the nameless narrator wanders the streets of Washington, DC (with nary a reference to politics, as if we are in a mythic landscape, where the resident of the White House doesn't matter), ob ...more
Rebecca McNutt
While I'm not a big romance fan, I loved the way the author was able to capture so much emotion (depression, grief, love, joy, etc) in such vibrant detail.
Apr 04, 2010 DoctorM rated it really liked it
Shelves: lavender-hip
Andrew Holleran produced "Dancer From the Dance" in the mid-1970s, in the post-Stonewall, pre-HIV disco era. "Dancer" was a swoony romance, the gay "Gatsby". But it was also suffused with a kind of gentle melancholy that Holleran expanded on all through the plague years of the 1980s. "Grief" is Holleran's meditation on loss and living on after grief--- a fine and sympathetic novel, one that draws not only on the survivors' guilt of Holleran's generation but also on the passage of time, on the li ...more
Christian Paula
Nov 08, 2015 Christian Paula rated it liked it
I wanted to like this book more. Holleran is great with words and the way he talks about being gay having lived through AIDS, as well as grieving the death of his mother were beautiful and illuminating. But what got to me were the descriptions of life in DC. He touches on the cycle of gentrification and the spacelessness the city has as not a city in Maryland, but the country's city. But I was bored to tears with bland descriptions of the city's attractions and how much he can't connect to any o ...more
Jul 29, 2014 Eduardo rated it really liked it
4.5 is my rating.
This is the second time I’ve read this remarkable short novel (150 pages). And I have liked it as much this time as the first time, maybe more. Holleran uses a very penetrating eye in revealing the splendors and miseries of gay life in Washington, the capital of the nation, a paradoxical and sad mirror / pattern of the whole country.
The narrator is told on page 122 by an 80-year old lady that guilt is caused by the awareness of human imperfections, and, being so, it is a form o
May 24, 2013 Laurie rated it it was amazing
Not everyone will 'like' this book, but I believe it speaks intensively and extensively to those who have reason to grieve. As I put it to a friend, the characters in this book are in one way or another 'bereft'. I purposely don't use the term 'berieved'; its connotations are somehow too conventional.

The characters in the novel are all dealing, to one degree or another, with absence. In the novel's particular context, it is about gay men grieving for the friends and lovers they have lost through
A lonely middle-aged gay man has cared for his aging mother for years. Now she has died and the man is alone and bereaved. A friend suggests he take a temporary job in D.C. and rent a room from a friend of the friend. The man he will rent from is also a middle aged gay man. So this plan goes forward and nothing else happens except discussions of grief, loneliness, responsibility to the living and the dead. Our main character is in a Washington D.C. that seems empty and he walks around a great de ...more
This book is a meditation on grief - the main character doesn't evolve or change during the course of the book, he mainly explores his own grief and that of others. I've stayed away from Joan Didion's A Year of Magical Thinking - what reviewers called this book's non-fiction counterpart - because I've had plenty of my own experiences with death in the last few years, and I wasn't sure I wanted to read about how hard it could be. But this being fiction, I wanted to give it a shot. Some of the wri ...more
Jan 23, 2010 Tom rated it really liked it
This is a sequel to "The Beauty of Men," in which Holleran depicted a closeted son dutifully, but often resentfully, giving his mother weekly outings from a Florida nursing home. In this work, the middle-aged single man, writing in the first person, has moved to Washington D.C. temporarily after his invalid mother has passed away. He is teaching a literature class while working through mixed feelings of guilt, grief and regret that life has passed him by. There is not much "action" in this piece ...more
Sian Lile-Pastore
Apr 24, 2012 Sian Lile-Pastore rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, lgbtqi
I thought this was beautiful and lovely and also pretty sad and bleak (yep, the clue was in the title). It's a novel about a man who moves to Washington after the death of his mother and rents a room in a house from a gay man in his 50s.

I assumed that that grief part would be about the narrator getting over the death of his mother, but it also seemed to be a general kind of grief (the grief 'lay beneath all things'),with his friend and landlord trying to get on with their lives in a post AIDS w
Dec 16, 2008 Alicia rated it it was ok
This is a book that, not surprisingly, explores the different ways people deal with grief. The main character comes to Washington D.C. to recover from the death of his invalid mother. While in D.C. he connects with a number of his gay friends and they talk about the AIDS epidemic that took so many of their friends. The main character realizes that his guilt at surviving the epidemic and the fact that he never came out to his mother are keeping him locked in the grieving cycle even as others move ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

In his fifth work of fiction, Andrew Holleran, author of the widely praised Dancer from the Dance (1978), explores the complex issues surrounding grief while offering multifaceted impressions of Washington, D.C. Critics praised Holleran's lyrical writing, his subtle and flavorful characterizations, and the beauty of his observations__especially in his evocations of the city. Several admired Holleran's refusal to deal with grief in simplistic terms. John Freeman carped that the novel was a "talk

Nick Duretta
Nov 19, 2013 Nick Duretta rated it liked it
This short novel (almost a novella really) details the story of a gay man who moves to Washington D.C. while coping with the recent death of his mother. He becomes obsessed (and I think obsessed is the right word) with Mary Todd Lincoln's actions after the death of Abraham Lincoln, and draws many parallels and lessons from the way she handles grief to his own. It's a device that smacks a little too much of gimmickry, even though it is a valid device and Holleran is a very good writer. I apprecia ...more
Oct 15, 2014 Michael rated it it was amazing
Holleran renders grief remarkably, tying the mental breakdown of Mary Todd Lincoln to the ghost-like existence of an aging gay professor who survived the plague. "[Mary] was a ghost, a reminder of something the country wanted to put behind it." Rightly, the narrator is given a friend (Frank), who is so engaging, smart and funny, he saves the book from unbearable bleakness. Grief is a sleek and wonderful novel.
May 07, 2017 Mason rated it liked it
A sterile, somewhat distant account of one man's sorrow following the death of his mother. Though Holleran certainly creates the mood reflected in his novel's title, there's a monotony to it that hinders the book from being more than the sum of its sad, introspective parts.
May 13, 2010 Damian rated it really liked it
Shelves: 8th-grade-ir
Grief by Andrew Holleran. This story is being told by a narrator whose mother died. He and his landlord are the main characters in this book. The setting is in Washington, D. C. The narrator has moved to Washington to teach a class and to try to move on after the death of his mother. However, he finds that it is not so easy to stop grieving and move on. He feels he made a mistake in moving there because he felt lost. His whole life had changed. Before his mother's death, his whole routine had be ...more
Sep 04, 2007 Gwen rated it liked it
Shelves: read07, amerilit
"When some terrible misfortune happens it's not just the victim who suffers. There's a ripple effect. Everyone around the victim is affected."

Although Grief is both beautifully and carefully constructed (and at exactly 150 pages, constructed it is), it has a tentative feel, much like that last breath before a long dive. It's as though the author doesn't wish to offend anyone, but in so doing, he doesn't quite reach the level of immediacy one needs in this sort of work. The characters haunt both
Rick Urban
Mar 25, 2014 Rick Urban rated it really liked it
I've loved Andrew Holleran's books from the very beginning. His "Dancer From the Dance" was a pivotal part of my coming out process, opening my eyes to the possibilities of a thrilling urban life of parties, wacky friends and hot, hot sex, yet it was the melancholy disappearance of Malone, the mysterious and insanely handsome cypher at the center of the story, that really grabbed my attention. Then, as the hedonistic 70's gave way to the tragedy of the AIDS era, Holleran's books became increasin ...more
May 08, 2013 Sharron rated it really liked it
Holleran's prose is exquisite but while I appreciated his musings on grief, I was drawn much more to his reflections on life in Washington, D.C. As one who has wandered around the city for more than four decades, his observations regarding its neighborhoods, residents and history struck a cord with me. By way of explanation, I offer the following passage -

"It was only when I happened to walking with a historian through Lafayette Square one day that I learned Henry Adams had lived in a townhouse
Nov 30, 2011 Kevin rated it liked it
Shelves: queer-fiction
This has its moments, but is disappointing. I'm a big Holleran fan. His dialogue is exceptional. I enjoy how meditative he is and the slow, building nature of his style. That's all present here, but this one left me wanting. I think ultimately the book is about a man who takes a vacation from his grief by taking up in DC for a few months after the death of his mother and how this affords him the distance to look at grief historically and conceptually. It's a heady challenge, and I don't think an ...more
Aug 22, 2015 Chris rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, lgbt
Reading Holleran's novels, because of their highly personal feeling, each read as a snapshot of a different period in a gay man's life, and so makes it difficult to objectively say that any one is better than the other. However 'Grief,' the shortest so far, is in my opinion the best crafted so far. Nothing of much importance occurs - in fact, the narrator makes effort to almost highlight the banality of his daily life - but it is the level of introspection that he manages to bring to each vision ...more
Nov 01, 2010 Mckinley rated it it was ok
Shelves: grief, novel
The title basically sums it up rather well. It's a book about mourning: an aging professor takes on a teaching position in Washington DC after the death of his mother. Lonely and out of place in his world, he walks through an echo of life, past the city's architecture, his interactions with students in his course, through his interactions with his DC friends, and in his co-habitation with his landlord. He finds some solace in the letters and journals of Mary Todd Lincoln who never overcame her o ...more
I picked this up because Paul Monette mentioned Holleran in the essays I read back in June. This was the only book by Holleran that my library had.

I feel like I read this out of context in a few ways. After reading an interview with Holleran, I realized that his characters appear in several books. This is the last book that Holleran has published and it feels like the end of the story. Then there is the fact that I am not a gay man and so I think I miss some of the references. Lastly, this book
Jun 23, 2016 Tisa rated it it was amazing
I read Holleran's masterpiece "Dancer from the Dance" years ago, and I had intended to read this one when it came out, but I got sidetracked by other things. A friend reminded me about this, so I stopped to read it. It's a powerful but quiet look at the devastation caused by the death of dearly-beloved family and long time friends. I have friends whose lives mirror those of the characters in the novel, so reading this had a special meaning in my life. The impact of deep grief can be felt in a va ...more
Anthony Willis
Mar 05, 2013 Anthony Willis rated it did not like it
Yawn. This book bored me tremendously. In keeping with my goal of not stopping halfway and finishing all the books I begin, I pushed through. Only 150 pages should have been finished in a day - not a week. I'll be the first to admit, especially after reading other reviews and high praises for this book, that maybe I just didn't 'get it'. Honestly, everything just fell flat. A middle-aged gay male loses his mother, and takes a temporary job in D.C. to cope with it all? While finding comfort in le ...more
Nov 02, 2009 John-Fig rated it it was amazing
I think this book is almost as much a love letter to our nation's capital as it is a personal journey through the comprehension and acceptance of death. Holleran truly captures the confusion one feels in the aftermath of losing a loved one, which includes grasping for any words that make sense of loss. His choice to turn to the letters of Mary Todd Lincoln is as logical as any, and allows for a deeper understanding of what it means to feel guilt in the light of death.

The book, in just a few sho
Jan 14, 2017 Gina rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2017
It's well written enough, but I expected something way more intense for the brief things I read about this book. It's mostly about the narrator's passive attempt to find connection with his landlord and DC than the wounds of grief. Two characters tell him that the dead aren't conscious in another dimension and listening to our lamentations, so why not channel that energy into the present? I'm inclined to agree, but the narrator doesn't for vague reasons. The fact that he's without background bes ...more
Nov 02, 2007 Marie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Did not like this book; had no idea why it got such good reviews. Interesting perspective as told through the gay life in DC of a certain generation - that had witnessed alot of death from AIDS - a fine tribute to the architecture of DC - and a quirky linkage of Mary Todd Lincoln's suffering post the assassination of her husband with the narrator's own grief - which never felt real. He just felt lost and drifting and it was hard not to find it all a bit pathetic. Obvious metaphors of dogs cooped ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
USA Geography Cha...: Grief by Andrew Holleran 1 1 Dec 29, 2014 09:58PM  
  • The Married Man
  • Light Fell
  • Exiles in America
  • Arkansas: Three Novellas
  • Probation
  • The Greeks & Greek Love: A Bold New Exploration of the Ancient World
  • Mother of Sorrows
  • Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Sexual Renegade
  • Buddies
  • Martin and John
  • The Story of the Night
  • Pulp Friction: Uncovering the Golden Age of Gay Male Pulps
  • In the Absence of Men
  • Last Watch of the Night: Essays Too Personal and Otherwise
  • Source
  • Wrong
  • The Salt Point
  • Edinburgh
Andrew Holleran is the pseudonym of Eric Garber, a novelist, essayist, and short story writer. He is a prominent novelist of post-Stonewall gay literature. He was a member of The Violet Quill, a gay writer's group that met briefly from 1980-81.
More about Andrew Holleran...

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »