Tag Archives: The Grief of Others

The Real in Fiction: Emily Rapp’s “Notes of a Dragon Mom”

Our experiences have taught us how to parent for the here and now, for the sake of parenting, for the humanity implicit in the act itself, though this runs counter to traditional wisdom and advice.

-Emily Rapp, “Notes of a Dragon Mom”

This article made me think of Leah Hager Cohen’s The Grief of Others, the way knowing your child will die can change you, change everything. The way saying that and knowing that seems like the most obvious, silly observation, and yet you can’t stop looking away, can’t stop observing the ruins. While this is different in its truth, its realness, it is the gut from which Cohen’s story — and stories like it — come. And seeing a woman of letters write about the experience in a way that can communicate and empathize with others in situations similar and startlingly different is why I write. It’s why I read. It’s like those zombie films (I’ve been watching The Walking Dead, forgive me), where all they really know to do is search for anyone — everyone — who is, like them, still alive despite it all.

This is a love story, and like all great love stories, it is a story of loss. Parenting, I’ve come to understand, is about loving my child today. Now. In fact, for any parent, anywhere, that’s all there is.

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Review: The Grief of Others

I’ll be honest – it was the cover of Leah Hager Cohen’s The Grief of Others that made me pick it up off the library display table. It looked like the cover on some movie, which is usually a deterrent, but there was something eerie but welcoming about this one. I mean look at it, you want to enter but you know there’s a chance you might never leave.

Having read the book now, it’s funny that that was my initial reaction. Characters are drawn to this house, as I was to its image. As though Lady Liberty herself stood on their front lawn, the Ryries’ house draws suffering to it. Whether Cohen is saying that misery does indeed love company, or it is only by empathizing and witnessing the suffering of others that we can truly heal, she does so with a light pen.
Continue reading

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Notes on: The Grief of Others

Lately my train rides have passed without complaint, thanks to Leah Hager Cohen’s The Grief of Others. I’ve managed to keep up my late night and I-wish-my-commute-was-longer reading sessions from Perrotta’s The Leftovers on into this next book.

I’m a little over halfway through, and I anticipate having a review ready and up in the next couple weeks, but in the meantime I thought I’d drop a few tasty morsels that I jotted down hurriedly yesterday afternoon.

The vast spearmint distance she felt between herself and everyone — everything — else was almost, she imagined, what royals must feel, and forevermore Ricky would link mourning with royalty, and royalty with mourning; for the rest of her days, the words king and queen would remind her of deep sorrow.

- The Grief of Others, page 135

And, possible spoiler alert! Continue reading

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The grief of others, the age of me

I turn 25 today. It’s crazy, you know, looking back at all of the milestones I never thought would happen. I talked to my brother yesterday and he said that he only feels older when he sees other people aging. It’s true, isn’t it? When I see the world around me changing, I am reminded to take a look at myself to measure the changes.

I made a list of 26 things I want to do before 26, and one of them is to read at least one book a month and write a review on that. I hope that tttr will thrive in my 25th year, that my love of books and writing will as well. On a related note, I’ve chosen my next book: The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen. I’ve taken to browsing the Cambridge Public Library’s new books table and picking up whatever strikes my fancy. The opening to this novel is beautiful:

His mother found that once he was in her arms, she didn’t want to name him anything, not even the name they’d picked out, Simon Isaac Ryrie, a name she had loved but which struck her ears now as a terrible quantity of pricking syllables. It was not that she was trying to resist forming an attachment, not that she wished to deprive him of any blessing, any gift or token, but only because once he was in her arms it became obvious that a name was too clumsy and rough and worldly a thing to foist on such a simultaneously luminous and shadowy being.

She tried explaining this to her husband, and also to the nurse and the midwife and the neonatologist, and then to the lady who came with the forms that had to be filled out, and to the resident with the beautiful sad eyes and the accent that made her think of anisette cakes and tiny glasses of thick coffee (his name was Dr. Abdulaziz, which she remembered because of the way he kissed the feet of her fading child each time he came in) — but she couldn’t seem to produce words that matched the authority in her conviction; her voice encountered obstacles, so that the easier and ultimately more rightful thing to do was abandon speech and simply hold her baby swaddled against her chest. This was all she could do and she did it absolutely. In the end it was the resident, Dr. Abdulaziz, who dissolved her resistance to naming the child, not by design or conscious effort, not even knowing he’s played such a role. Yet when he stopped in to visit her, visit them, for the last time (he explained it would be the last time, as he’d come to the end of his shift), he called the baby by name, in so low a voice, his accented syllables seeming to drape the baby in a beautifully embroidered garment as he pronounced, with care and not a speck of fanfare, almost as though it were private, not intended for either parent but for the baby’s sake alone, “Simon Isaac,” and bent to touch once more his mouth to the soles of the baby’s feet.

I already feel as though this book and I are in cahoots, especially as I read it under lamplight until way past my bedtime last night. Perhaps a quarter-of-a-century won’t be so bad, after all.

Also, it’s Banned Book Week! Check out this map for the occasion.

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