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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2 thoughts on “The grief of others, the age of me

  1. I’m looking forward to reading this novel– Leah Hager Cohen teaches at Lesley University where I graduated with my MFA this year. I sat in a couple of her seminars– she’s a very smart lady! 🙂

    Good luck on your goal to read a book a month and review it. I think that’s a really great idea.


    • Mel says:

      Oh nice! Honestly, the cover snagged me but the first few lines – and the whole opening sequence – is haunting. Is she going to be at the Book Fest? I feel like I recognized her picture from somewhere.

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