Simon Ryrie only lived for 57 hours, but the impact his life has on his family (mother Ricky, father John, siblings Biscuit and Paul) reaches beyond the brief moments of his existence in Leah Hager Cohen’s fourth novel, The Grief of Others. One year later, Ricky, working toward redemption for an infidelity, must now own up to another terrible secret she’s concealed, this one involving her pregnancy with Simon.
As the revelation rips open old wounds, John and Ricky’s wavering relationship threatens to give way, and the Ryrie children sink into their own lonely realities: Young Biscuit plays hooky and cultivates a fascination with funeral rites, while Paul weathers his classmates’ torturous bullying. With anger, shame and confusion now complicating their mourning, the Ryries struggle for normalcy, an effort made all the more difficult when John’s daughter from a previous relationship shows up, pregnant and in need of a place to stay. When the family is forced to confront a grief within her that is too close to their own, the added heartbreak could be the final blow.
Inspired by her own experience with loss, Cohen demonstrates a masterful command of storytelling, instilling a melancholy power and grace in her words and driving an already gripping narrative with a quiet but brutal intensity. Using the viewpoints of each character makes it easy for readers to give the family the acceptance and forgiveness they fight so hard for, even when their actions don’t exactly warrant it.
With this incredibly moving commentary, Cohen has secured a place in the lineup of today’s great writers.