The Grief of Others

The Grief of Others
384 pages; Penguin Group
The premise: Successful, smart, golden mom Ricky Ryrie gives birth to a baby who, due to a neurological condition, lives for only 57 hours.

What kept us reading, even though we were crying: The author has a wise and thorough understanding of how families grieve—both individually and as a group. As Ricky later describes on a drive home, having witnessed a two-car wreck, "It wasn't as if accidents frightened her more now. It was that they made her feel more tired, as if by possessing a fuller understanding of the complexities of loss, she could not help experiencing more particularly the losses of others."

The side character you'll long to pick up off the page and hug: Biscuit, the young daughter of Ricky, whose confused, numinous imagination tries to make sense of what is happening to her family. A window into her mind, as she looks at the fire in the fireplace on the night the baby is born: "The false embers glowed like a tiny city half-hidden in the grate. In that city was a building, in that building was a room, there her mother lay in a bed with nurses bustling softly around it."

The one chapter you absolutely must read, even if you don't buy the book and only go to the bookstore and flip through it: The prologue, pages one through four.

The message behind the novel, as written by the author in a nonfiction essay about her real-life miscarriage: "Isn't it a funny and fine thing to realize: that being whole nearly always requires not just the tending of ourselves but the tending of our bonds with others?"
— Leigh Newman