Beth's Reviews > The Grief of Others

The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen
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's review
Feb 09, 2014

really liked it
bookshelves: 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, twice, like a bobbing valentine; and in the way the lower bowed out, luxuriant, lush, as if sated already from a lifetime of pleasures--how improbably expressive were his lips.

Leah Hager Cohen begins the beautiful and poignant tale of family and loss which is The Grief of Others with this passage. It is the start of the description of a tiny child, destined from long before birth to the only the briefest of time with his family. Cohen's novel is a gorgeous, yet simple and direct, tale of the simultaneous strength and fragility of human connection. It is told from the varying perspectives of the members of the Ryrie family and of a recently orphaned college student whose path accidentally crosses with theirs at a key moment in their lives. To immerse yourself in this novel is to face questions not only of the mortality alluded to by the title, but also of one's own capacity for emotional fidelity, honesty, and responsibility. To engage with Cohen's beautiful prose is also to face the devastating reality of the many paths we must choose in the small moments which make up our lives, some of which may carry us far afield, even as we may only be beginning to recognize the destination to which we want to direct our journey. Cohen doesn't provide a pat and simple closure either, but openly admits that to anticipate with too much certainty where the paths we choose will take us is an act of hubris, and so we are left simply with open questions and a quiet glimmering of hope to connect us to the characters as the book draws to a close. And this makes the gently devastating novel all the more satisfying, somehow.
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Reading Progress

February 9, 2014 – Started Reading
February 9, 2014 – Shelved
February 12, 2014 – Shelved as: audiobooks
February 12, 2014 – Finished Reading

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