Alternative Remedies for Loss

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Olivia Harris is one semester shy of graduating from Vassar when she loses her mother to cancer. The event sends Olivia into a search for meaning that takes the twenty-two-year-old into the darkest places of herself as she examines who her mother really was and who she is now, without her.

The Harris family, in Joanna Cantor’s Alternative Remedies for Loss, isn’t too remarkable. It includes two older brothers, a younger sister, and parents Max and Eleanor, who loved each other as long as they could before Eleanor’s illness ran its course. While they were all in health and in life, there was little mystery. Brothers Alec and Ty were out of school and consumed with their own lives, seemingly having everything together, while Olivia struggled to find herself through her film major at Vassar. It is Eleanor’s death that reveals all of Harrises to one another.

As Olivia clears her mother’s study on the heels of her father’s recent and infuriating relationship with a new woman, June, Olivia discovers two notes to Eleanor, both signed, simply, “F.” As Olivia attempts to unravel the mystery of F–a mystery that will find her in yoga studios all over New York and then, ultimately, in India–she discovers that her mother’s life and illness weren’t at all what she had imagined.

Olivia doesn’t mourn her mother quietly or alone. She finds solace in strangers and odd encounters that may seem at odds with grappling with grief. However, the beauty of Cantor’s novel is that it shows we all find peace in our own ways, and often we need to seek our own Alternative Remedies for Loss.

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Author Joanna Cantor
Star Count 5/5
Format Hard
Page Count 320 pages
Publisher Bloomsbury Publishing
Publish Date 2018-May-08
ISBN 9781635571714
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue August 2018
Category Modern Literature


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