Reviewed by Claudia Robinson

Charley Schwartz’s life is less than ideal. Lacking motivation and follow-through, for just about anything, with a lackluster job, Charley is not exactly representative as elite alumni, a Raging Donkey, of Saint Leonard’s Academy, Philadelphia’s oldest preparatory school. In fact, Charley, if one is completely honest, is a bit of a disappointment to his alma mater, not to mention his best friend Neil, who consistently manages to get Charley out of sticky situations, or his wife Karen, who has patiently waited for the man she married to be, well, the man she married.

When Charley receives a phone call from the Mother of Billy Chin, also a graduate of St. Leonard’s, his life is about to turn inside out. Billy has jumped from the bridge to his death, leaving unanswered questions and cause for pause amongst his fellow Raging Donkeys. Why would Billy have taken his life? How bad does life have to be to reach the end of the proverbial rope? Who could have stopped it? How far back did his ‘bad place’ go? Were any of them responsible?

Determined to be a better person, Charley returns to his alma mater in hopes of somehow ingratiating Billy’s name. Maybe a small donation, or a service in his memory. What transpires instead is an upheaval of Charley’s life and a walk down memory lane he would much rather not have to take. From the dark recesses of his past, Charley is forced to face his own mortality, his involvement in Billy’s downward spiral to one last desperate act, and his life, or lack thereof. Old wounds are opened up, new ones are born, and memories aren’t always the truth. Billy’s suicide has forced a class in to a reunion that brings to the surface true character, and altered perceptions of the past. With Billy as the only connection between them, a class if forced to deal with unresolved conflicts and past and present fusions that don’t always work.

The Grievers is a bittersweet little gem of a novel that opens up the reader’s mind to emotions not usually given face time, at least not to this degree. Life, loss and the dark place where people go when neither can be attended to in a healthy manner, create a story about human nature and how one moment in time can alter past and present, individually, as well as cumulatively. Funny and sad, sweet and tender, crass and rude, The Grievers delivers a quick, succinct, raw and honest approach to life and death and the unique reactions of human beings to situations out of their control or understanding. Seamless and clean, it’s a quirky insight in to the interconnectedness of all of us, despite our differences, in the face of tragedy.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Claudia lives on beautiful Cape Cod with her husband and two children.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by The Permanent Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.