The narrative follows each of the six main characters, getting into their heads and showing the different ways in which their grief and longing cripples them. Each of the characters, the four Ryries, Jess, and Gordie, a young man reeling from his own father's death and introduced to the Ryries through Biscuit, is complete and realistic. While some of the decisions made by the characters, John and Ricky in particular, are hard to understand, the truth and burden of their individual mourning make the decisions real and wrenching, especially when seen in the context of the family and in the impact on each of the other, equally needy, characters. The narrative timeline moves back and forth from the present, capturing the months before Simon's birth and immediately following as well as eight years prior when Jess last spent time with the Ryries. This allows the reader to see into the heart of the familial relationships to their very core, even before grief so overwhelmed them.
Cohen's writing is simply gorgeous, filled with amazing descriptions that take your breath away. She has effectively isolated her characters from each other even when they need each other the most and it is impossible to feel anything but deepest sorrow at their very alone-ness. That each of them is profoundly lonely and incapable of re-establishing long frayed bonds is overwhelming and adds to the pervasive sadness of the story above and beyond the loss of a baby. The characters' very secrets hold them at arms length from each other, husband from wife, parents from children, Ryries from family outsiders, and the revelation of their deepest beliefs will change their lives forever. While it is hard to comprehend the remoteness of the characters, Cohen has done a marvelous job drawing these broken people who have lost the ability to trust and to nurture and to make a family. Absorbing and effecting, this was a moving novel about loss and secrets and family and trust and the struggle to emerge from grief not unchanged but whole.
For more information about Leah Hager Cohen and the book visit her webpage, her blog, or visit her on Facebook.
Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.