Marvin's Reviews > The Grief of Others

The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen
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's review
Oct 14, 2011

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This is an intimate, domestic novel that takes place over the course of about a year (with occasional flashbacks to an idyllic summer 8 years earlier). It focuses on a middle-class family--mother, father, 12-13-year old son who is being bullied at his middle school, and 9-10-year-old daughter who is skipping school regularly; they are joined by the father's 23-year-old pregnant daughter from an earlier relationship and a 19-year-old young man whose long widowed father has died recently and whose chance encounter (along with his big dog) with the 10-year-old daughter brings him into the family circle. As the author shifts the focus among them, all 6 characters are drawn exceptionally well; we come to care deeply for them all in the way that one does in the best of Anna Quindlen's domestic novels. The writing is generally strong, though occasionally a little over the top and with the occasional word seemingly drawn from a thesaurus. Though framed and titled as a story about grief (over the loss of an infant at the beginning of the novel), it's at least as much about the challenges of maintaining trust in family relationships that are strained by the secrets, hurts, and taken-for-grantedness that are an inevitable part of the complexities of everyday family life; and this Cohen captures expertly.

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