Leah Hager Cohen's newest novel, The Grief of Others, shares the story of the Ryrie family who has lost their baby after his birth just a year before. John and Ricky find their marriage deteriorating, whether from this tragedy or from other secrets they have kept. Their daughter Biscuit has been skipping school and their son Paul has become the victim of bullying, something they are unaware of until he is suspended for fighting. John's grown daughter from a previous relationship, now pregnant and single, shows up in the midst of this, adding another dimension to this story.
And while the family should perhaps address these issues, as John is contemplating the state of his marriage he realizes, "a certain atmosphere of normalcy was hard to avoid, frankly, in a family where the kids needed their reading logs signed, the laundry needed folding, the fridge restocking, the plants watering (208)." The truth of the matter is that avoidance has become a way of life for the Ryries.
While the Ryries have just recently lost a child, the focus of this story is not on their grief so much. For all appearances, their lives appear to be moving along, and I never felt as though grief was the overriding theme of this book. Yet, perhaps it is the avoidance of dealing with their loss that truly moves this novel along.
This is not a happy novel, but despite its sadness, I enjoyed it. Cohen's story is one of a family much like many others who are caught up in the day to day hustle of life and don't find time to deal with problems that arise until perhaps it is too late.