Penguin Life, £12.99, pp304
For 25 years, Julia Samuel has worked as a grief therapist. In this wise and eloquent book, she shares case studies of different types of bereaved patient – partners, parents, siblings, children – arguing that it is not grief itself that damages us, but our inability to deal with the pain it brings.
Her empathy resonates from the pages as she acknowledges that is hard work “adjusting to this new version of ourselves”. But she also argues that “loss is intrinsic to the human experience… in order to live truly, to experience life fully, we need to be able to accept that”.
Love After Love
Faber, £12.99, pp336
Nancy is a therapist, married with children. Superficially, her life is a dream: large London house, thoughtful and creative husband, extended family who regularly pop round for garrulous meals.
But Nancy is having an affair with an older colleague, and her love for him reduces her availability for her family. Meanwhile, the disappearance of her itinerant brother, David, highlights their codependent sibling relationship.
Nancy is too narcissistic and selfish to invite any great sympathy, or to make a believable therapist. But Hourston immerses the reader in the moral, emotional and practical dilemmas of infidelity in this well-crafted cautionary tale.
Faber, £10, pp304
A man struggles with his sexuality at a wedding in Mexico. A father remembers a childhood incident of sexual harassment and fears for his young daughters. A woman with depression travels from country to country, unable to escape her pain and isolation. In Chris Power’s debut collection of short stories, characters cannot decide whether they crave change or are terrified of it. Travel is a recurrent theme, with characters realising too late that however far they run, they always take themselves with them. In these stories of quiet desperation, there is the constant threat that psychosis is just around the corner, and we are left with the unsettling question of whether the past will inevitably catch up with us.
• To order Grief Works for £8.49, Love After Love for £11.04 or Mothers for £8.50 go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99