Strangers and Cousins

Leah Hager Cohen. Riverhead, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-1-59463-483-3
Cohen’s captivating, lyrical latest (after The Grief of Others ) takes on the wedding novel and deepens it with weighty themes of death, trauma, and social unrest. While the story ostensibly confines itself to the four days preceding and the day of the wedding of flighty Clem to her more grounded college girlfriend Diggs at Clem’s childhood home in the Hudson Valley, it flashes back in time to the childhood of Clem’s great-aunt Glad, who was hurt physically and emotionally in a devastating fire in 1927. Cohen darts through the minds of dozens of wedding guests and family members, most of whom are concerned not just with the upcoming nuptials, for which no one is adequately prepared, but also with the recent influx of ultra-Orthodox Jews into the small town, where it is feared they will lower property values, gut the public education system, and make war with more liberal Jews, such as Clem’s father. By book’s end—after the theft of a wedding ring, a destructive storm, and another fire—the characters have rethought their notions of family and community. Even the most practical characters are frequently overwhelmed by spells of wild imagination and unreliable memories, adding a touch of magic. This enticing novel shimmers among its many well-defined points of view, exploring the psychic depths of a seemingly ordinary event. (May)
Reviewed on : 05/28/2019
Release date: 05/14/2019
Genre: Fiction
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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