THE GRIEVERS’ GROUP by Richard Wiley (Korea)

 

Richard Wiley (Korea 1967-69)

PEN/Faulkner winner Richard Wiley is one of the 21st century’s best storytellers. In his newest book, THE GRIEVERS’ GROUP, he chronicles the lives of people who have suffered great loss. One is suicidal and terribly difficult to like; another serves up stories of a lifelong series of affairs; a third won a small fortune in Las Vegas while trying to unravel the truth about his late wife; and, another caused the death of a lover – personally delivering it from the barrel of a gun.

It is a wild ride with an unforgettable cast of characters whose stories Wiley unfurls with unfailing sympathy but also with his signature wit and humor.

About the Author

Richard Wiley won the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Washington State Governor’s Writers Award for Soldiers in Hiding and the Maria Thomas Fiction Award for Ahmed’s Revenge. He is also the recipient of the Silver Pen Award from the State of Nevada. He is the author of nine novels and a collection of short stories. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and Professor Emeritus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, he now lives in Los Angeles, California.

Novel

THE GRIEVERS’ GROUP
by Richard Wiley (Korea 1967-69)
Stay Thirsty Press
May 2022
383 pages
$16.95 (Paperback), $9.99 (Kindle)

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  • I recently finished reading THE GRIEVER’S GROUP and enjoyed it very much. The characters are drawn beautifully and with appealing empathy. Also, delightful twists and turns emerge as their individual stories are revealed.

  • Although the experience of mourning the death of a loved one is universal, the particulars of the ritual vary widely across cultures and religions. Buddhists mourn for 49 days in preparation for the departed’s reincarnation. Muslim widows are expected to mourn for 4 lunar months and ten days; while both Jewish and Catholic tradition prescribe a period of nearly one year for a deceased spouse, with the first 30 days consisting of “heavy mourning.” Medical research performed in the latter half of the twentieth century confirmed the wisdom of these ancient rituals, with the most disabling burden of grief significantly abating after one year.

    Richard Wiley’s recently published novel The Griever’s Group addresses the nature of grief in the context of a fictional grievers’ group in Tacoma, Washington. Led by a not formally trained Icelandic émigré upon whom an honorary doctoral degree had been conferred by her adoptive psychotherapist foster mother, Pordis Jakobsdottir meets weekly in her dining room beneath a taciturn portrait of her mentor Josefine Christophersen-Hemmingsen.
    Through a series of group and individual therapy sessions we meet a collection of characters, who while all currently living in the Pacific northwest, form a cultural crazy quilt. Cornelius is an aging writer of European ancestry whose 3-generation family provides a major subplot involving the pregnancy of his fourteen-year-old granddaughter Phoebe in addition to his grieving the loss of his late wife Yuki. LaVeronica, an African American single mother with her own convoluted back story, struggles to parent her teenage son Dwayne. Ruthie–a Jewish woman whose late husband Benjamin left her a lake house and a collection of toys including a fishing boat and a Porsche—struggles in her relationship with her dismissive daughter Rachel and her self-important son Yehudi. Millicent is an older British woman with a strained relationship with her daughter Milly who is mourning the death of her husband Jonathan. Frank is seemingly the most boorish member of the group who is mourning the death of his wife Doris but is subsequently revealed to be a far more complex individual. Rounding out what Phoebe refers to as the “Mopesters,” Jane’s grieving is in many ways the most unconventional, centering as it does on the death of a paramour half a century earlier.

    In the end, the two characters who left the greatest impression on this reader were Cornelius who truly deeply mourned his wife’s departure by continually reliving her in every day of his therapy, and Frank who refused to let his wife be out of his life by dressing up like her and sharing her psychotic personality. To me, they were truly and actually continuing their own mourning of their spouses

    Over the course of nearly one year, we come to know all these characters, and others, well. While grieving provides the novel’s premise, the range of emotions explored is much broader: love, loss, betrayal, hatred, deceit, redemption, and the human capacity for resilience. It is a well-told story worthy or the reader’s time and attention.

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