by Gloria Goldreich
Can they start again, or will they lose one another forever?
David and Judith’s fragile marriage is threatened by the sudden death of their beloved thirteen-year-old daughter, Melanie. As they struggle to cope with their loss, they confront bewildering challenges. But instead of turning to each other, they find comfort with others.
David is drawn to Nancy, a colleague and single mother, and a survivor of her own personal tragedy, while Judith grows close to Jeffrey, a recently widowed physician whom she meets through her volunteer work at a thrift shop, itself the scene of multiple daily dramas. As their grief drives them further apart, does their future lie together ‘after Melanie’, or are they destined to lose one another for ever?
This is the first book I’ve read by Gloria Goldreich, and I have to say I love her writing style. The story deals with the aftermath of their daughter’s death. There are no histrionics, it’s all very calm and collected as both parents – David and Judith – absorb their grief, unable to share their feelings with the one person who is going through the same thing.
Their unfinished sentences, ending with since … or before …, tug at the heartstrings as they struggle to vocalise Melanie’s death, unable to even say her name out loud.
They fell silent because silence was less dangerous than the intrusive words they might speak. By tacit consent, they retained the privacy of separate and secret sorrow. They did not want to break each other’s hearts.
That says it all, and it is that very silence that leads them on their different paths. Both befriend another who understands their grief: Nancy lost her husband suddenly while pregnant (albeit many years ago), and her mother has just died, while Jeffrey’s wife passed away leaving him alone in a grand house with his two daughters living across the country.
From the sidelines, their son, Brian, and his fiancée, Denise, watch in despair, not knowing how to help them.
Will Judith and David survive the grieving process without ruining their marriage? For a long time, it seems unlikely, despite their very obvious love for each other. When communication dies, can it be reclaimed?
It’s a compelling yet slow-paced read, emotional and thoughtful, gentle and insightful. I will definitely read more from this author, and wouldn’t hesitate in recommending this book to readers of contemporary women’s fiction.
Thank you to Net Galley and Severn House for an ARC of this novel, in exchange for my honest review.