The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I was so intrigued by the premise of this novel (and that cover - it's so compelling - even if it doesn't match the story at ALL in terms of the characters & their ages) that I couldn't wait to read it. It sounded like something right up my alley. I seem to be drawn to books that have some level of sadness and what not. Given its focus on grief, this one seemed to have all of the components that I like in a literary novel.
Let's start with the good - this is a beautifully written book. Leah Hager Cohen is obviously a fantastic writer. I was incredibly moved by some of the writing, particularly at the start of the novel. The opening scene in the hospital was so beautifully written that I read it over and over, amazed at the picture the words were painting. However beautiful the language, I felt that it didn't take the story anywhere. It didn't make the characters come alive. It didn't do what beautiful writing is supposed to do - make the novel brilliant and readable. Instead, it seemed to get bogged down in the beauty of the words but somehow neglected moving the story anywhere interesting for the reader. It was like the novel was all prettied up with this beautiful language and imagery but it never actually came into itself. It was stagnated and just sat there.
I love the idea of this novel - an exploration of a family and how that family handles the ups and downs of life. However, the family in this novel felt very unreal to me - I never connected with them or really even felt that they were in any way connected to each other despite being told over and over that they are connected. Perhaps that disconnection was intentional given the themes but it didn't do much to make the novel actually interesting.
I'm really conflicted about this one. It had such potential but ultimately fell flat for me. Perhaps I wanted to love it so much that it led to disappointment. I'm not sure. But, I ultimately liked this one but didn't love it. It was better than OK but not great - it was a solid 'good' book. I'm not sure that I recommend it ... I think its worth a read, particularly if you like beautiful writing. But, it won't blow your socks off and I worry that it may leave you feeling ambivalent in some way.
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