Three years after the sudden, mysterious death of their 1-year-old daughter Lily, Josef Coleman, a high-strung New York surgeon, and his editor wife Claudia Macinnes remain mired in anguish and grief. Their mourning has left them reaching out for different things in different ways: Josef for a primal, physical connection that Claudia can no longer bear, and Claudia for a connection of the soul that Josef has never really known how to offer. To numb his pain and attempt to fill the gaping hole of loss, Josef turns to a young surgical nurse named Kiera; Claudia, meanwhile, is drawn into what seems like an unrequited fantasy about her psychotherapist, Stuart. The time she spends in his office — this sole “other room” where she can allow herself to project into the future — becomes a rare bright spot in her weeks. The couple’s extended families soon become implicated in the unraveling of their lives. Bit by bit, haunting pasts and their impact on the present are revealed, as is the chilling truth about Lily’s death. Interwoven with Claudia’s meticulous journal entries offering glimpses of a sunnier future, the story ultimately takes a surprising turn reaffirming that in tragedy’s wake lie redemption, reckoning and peace.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was an easy to love, yet emotionally taxing novel. Imagine if your own life had been ripped apart by the worst possible tragedy, the loss of your still-quite-young child. How would you cope? What would you do to get through your every day tasks and do more than simply exist? In “the Other Room,” award winning poet and author Kim Triedman explores the answers to this question–and she does it well.
This is not a book that I want to rush right back into and read a second time. That however, was not meant as an insult. I have no need to read this book again right away, because it affected me. When a novel can make me feel a broad span of different emotions all within the space of a few hundred pages–enough so that I forget what I am reading is fiction–then it has done what it was created to do. This book makes the reader feel what the characters are going through rather than just sitting back and being an observer.
Although I have not lived the exact situation that this novel presents, I could certainly identify with both of the main characters at different points in the story. The sense of overwhelming loneliness and loss was concurrent throughout the story and yet, the reader is also there to witness the small victories and achievements of the characters.
I cannot say that this story was rainbows and butterflies. It was not a particularly sunny read, but it was well written, thought provoking and realistic to the core. The revelations later in the book in relation to the manner in which the child died were not fully expected, but made sense in the context of what the characters were feeling and experiencing.
Possibly the portion of this novel that I enjoyed the most, was the way the author tied the ending together. When there is so much emotion running through the rest of the book, I had high hopes that the end would deliver. It did.
If you enjoy books that can take you out of your comfort zone and allow you to experience the lives of others for a while–if you want an escape from your own reality, perhaps–this is a book you should consider reading.