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3.61  ·  Rating details ·  844 ratings  ·  131 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)
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Average rating 3.61  · 
Rating details
 ·  844 ratings  ·  131 reviews

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Oct 06, 2014 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 becausewait for itit'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 thingtoo sad!"

And yet, I don't actually feel like contributing
Jeffrey Richards
Jan 09, 2008 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 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 bookshort, thematically focused, with only a minimal plotlinebut 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), ...more
Apr 04, 2010 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 ...more
Anthony McGill
Feb 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gay-fiction
I have always listed Andrew Holleran at the top of my favorite "gay" authors and "Grief" continues the high standard you expect from his work. Not a long novel but a beautifully written observation of life and ageing and death, penned by one of the keenest literary minds out there.
Ever since the 1978 classic "Dancer from the Dance," his ground breaking first novel which surely must be on the short list for "greatest American gay novel," I have loved his books and this is no
Christian Paula
Nov 08, 2015 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 ...more
Aug 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Not bad! This is a short novel, only 150 pages, that is so detailed, you take a long time to read it. I think its fun to read; its a tour of Washington D.C. and a history lesson. Politics are addressed, and I would describe the ideas as edgy, politically incorrect, brave, and they serve to create real intimacy between the main characters. Im surprised SJWs havent held a pitchfork party and burned all copies of this book. Likely, not enough people have read it. Natalie Goldberg mentions it in LET ...more
Jessie Kennedy
Truly, what a sad book. The way Holleran writes about grief and loss really cut deep, dang! Gotta sit with this one for a while.
Aug 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'll review it when I finish.
Jul 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
A meditation on aging, grief, and living in gay communities during the Clinton era. I found the writing chose to hid the narrator from view a bithe lacked agency (and, I believe, a name), which heightened the sense of loss and wandering that is the theme of the book. I was struck by how perceptive he was of other characters' experiences of grief; I'm not sure how much that recounting/sharing helped him navigate his own grief, but the final paragraph seems to demonstrate that he re-arrived at a ...more
May 24, 2013 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
Sep 04, 2007 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
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 ...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 ...more
Jan 23, 2010 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 ...more
Sian Lile-Pastore
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
Dec 16, 2008 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

Nick Duretta
Nov 19, 2013 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 ...more
Oct 15, 2014 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.
Feb 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Meditative, autumnal and actually weirdly comforting...the kind of novel that sneakily wraps its tendrils around your throat, or i suppose your heart. I loved Holleran's Dancer From The Dance, and this was just as good; much quieter, more world-weary, but just as informed by what is missing, the inexplicable dead, as it is with its sense of place. Pretty much perfect.
Mark Hiser
Sep 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbtq, death
Grief opens when a profoundly lonely middle-aged gay professor (who remains nameless to keep distance from us readers) takes a short-term teaching position in Washington D.C. following the death, of his mother. While in the city, he rents a room at another mans home. The novel then follows the protagonist as he grieves and holds on to his belief that the dead stay with us if we continue to grieve.

Other characters include:

the landlord of the home where the narrator takes temporary residence.
Patrick Brennan
Jun 30, 2020 rated it liked it
I picked up this read because it takes place in Washington, DC and deals with a gay man in the 2000s. Our protagonist's sojourn in DC is brief -- just from January through perhaps May, a gloomy time of year to pass by DC, but the city not in its most lively moment allows our character to really experience the history of the city.
I truly enjoyed the monotony of his daily life, his limited friendships, his oddly impersonal relationship with his landlord, and his ruminations on grief-- the grief he
Alonzo Vereen
Oct 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a novel about an older, gay white mans struggle with grief and mourning.

Though it wasnt all that plot-driven, and though many of the ideas presented were often repeated, giving the narration an elliptical feel, I found the telling quite riveting.

Im not entirely sure what kept me turning the pages. Maybe it was the texts dark tone. Maybe it was its weighty subject matter many of his friends had died of AIDS; his mother had passed away a few years before the story begins, too. Maybe it
Marcel Watier
Sep 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Grief will break your heart. From the opening pages to the last line this is a story of a man trying to move on but ultimately unable to so.

All of the main characters are wallowing in the things they've lost, unable to move on, unable to embrace the world in front of them. The book doesn't let you forget that grief isn't something to be neatly boxed up and left in the corner of the room. Many people wear their grief like a warm blanket and refuse to come out from under the covers.

It's a well
Idit Bourla
Jan 31, 2019 rated it it was ok
Oh gosh, I am so glad it is behind me. I only gave it 2 stars because I liked the writing okay, otherwise I would rate it 1 star only. This novel had nothing it it - I found nothing. It did not contain any love story, any plot, any characters, even proper names. How am I suppose to connect with nameless characters? The main theme of grief was okay for a theme, not for the only word in the novel. I fell into boredom and felt lonely reading his empty minds. It was not horrible because it was ...more
John Wood
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this one, perhaps a departure from most of my reads. A gay man moves to Washington DC after the death of his mother. It is a very good exploration of grief, including the deep grieving of Mary Todd Lincoln, but also has a lot about exploring DC with its famous buildings, monuments, and museums and the gay culture including references to the period during the outbreak of the AIDs crisis. A quick, but thought-provoking read.
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I got unnecessarily mad about the last page, which knocked it from a 3 to a 2. Really more of a 2.5 - loved the ties to Washingtonian history and all the Mary Todd Lincoln metaphorical inserts. The pace was an unending bombardment, though, probably due to the writing style and lack of chapter breaks.
May 07, 2017 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.
Daniel Kukwa
Jan 27, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: general-lit
A quick and easy read, but it was occasionally unsatisfying. Sometimes the endless self-reflection became tiring, and I can't say I liked the ending. But it has a soft, melancholy atmosphere that I appreciated, as well as some interesting things to say about living everyday life in Washington DC.
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Born in 1943. 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.

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