Jane’s Boekentips

THE GRIEF OF OTHERS by Leah Hager Cohen and SHELTER by Frances Greenslade

Secrets and lies are fabulous in the literary world. You cannot have good drama without a big secret. Secrets are basically a requirement in writing novels, films or plays. A decision has to be made about the secret, it has to be maintained, cultivated and then there is the big reveal. When the secret is revealed how does it impact the characters and the plot?

In THE GRIEF OF OTHERS by Leah Hager Cohen, there is a big secret. But really, everyone is this New York family has a secret to keep. John and Ricky have experienced the loss of their baby, he only lived a few days after being born. They have two older children, Paul is 13 and Biscuit is 11. This family seems okay from the outside, but they are not. No one is talking to each other and that makes it easier to lie.

This is a family drama that is really an ensemble of people who are lost and there does not feel like there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  Once one secret is revealed, then the other secrets start to come out. How much can one family handle? Can the parents learn from their children? And can people that you love be forgiven?

This novel is a wonderful piece of writing. Cohen creates character that are authentic and very human. The story allows us as readers to see the world through each character’s perspective and that makes us have a greater understanding of the struggles they are facing. This lets you in to a home and you can actually see and feel the reality of loss and fear.  This is a great read that you will want to pass on to a friend.

SHELTER by Frances Greenslade

I really don’t know why, but I have always been drawn to Canadian writers. I do like stories about roughing it in the outdoors (this is something that I would never do in real life) and there are plenty of Canadian writers who cannot help but write about the snow, the woods, mountains and the wild, wildlife. I also find Canadian writers to be precise writers, they don’t tend to go on and on with descriptions or complicated plot lines. They get to the point of the story.

Greenslade meets all of my expectations of a great Canadian storyteller. Maggie and Jenny live with their parents in a broken down house with no running water or electricity, and they are doing okay until tragedy strikes. The girls lives change and they must adapt to a mother who is distracted and no longer focused on her daughters. For financial reasons, the girls stay with family friends in town and wait for their mother to return. But she does not come back. Maggie is always thinking about her missing mother and Jenny has embraced her new “town life”.

SHELTER is about making homes where you can, and always being prepared to create your own house or home. Maggie knows how to build a shelter in the woods, but she cannot be in a home with her mother and sister. They are living under different roofs. This book is elegant and brief, and yet it really says so much. I look forward to next work of Frances Greenslade.

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  • Aledys Ver  On July 7, 2012 at 8:49 am

    Two great recommendations, Jane; these stories sound really interesting.
    You are right about Canadian writers, they make wonderful storytellers; Ondaatje and Frasier are two of my favourite.
    Thanks for your tips!

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