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The Cure for Grief

The Cure for Grief

A Novel

  • reading group guide
Ruby is the youngest child in the tightly knit Bronstein family, a sensitive, observant girl who looks up to her older brothers and is in awe of her stern but gentle father, a Holocaust survivor whose past and deep sense of morality inform the family's life. But when Ruby is ten, her eldest brother enters the hospital and emerges as someone she barely recognizes. It is only the first in a startling series of tragedies that befall the Bronsteins and leave Ruby reeling from sorrow and disbelief.

This disarmingly intimate and candid novel follows Ruby through a coming-of-age marked by excruciating loss, one in which the thrills, confusion, and longing of adolescence are heightened by the devastating events that accompany them. As Ruby's family fractures, she finds solace in friendships and the beginnings of romance, in the normalcy of summer camp and the prom. But her anger and heartache shadow these experiences, separating her from those she loves, until she chooses to reconcile what she has lost with whom she has become.

Nellie Hermann's insightful debut is a heartbreakingly authentic story of the enduring potential for resilience and the love that binds a family.
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  • Scribner | 
  • 288 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416568247 | 
  • July 2009
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Reading Group Guide

Group Discussion
1. In the opening scene, after Ruby violently pushes her brother Aaron, she reflects, "this is helplessness, this is guilt, this is fear. This is the true impetus for change." What is your reaction to this statement? Is it a valid observation in the context of the novel? Do you agree or disagree in general that these feelings motivate people to change?
2. Discuss Ruby's relationship with each of her three brothers. Do you think Ruby would rather be "one of the boys" or is she more interested in carving out her own role in the family? Do you think Ruby is a good sister?
3. Josef Bronstein's past is described as "an envelope, tightly sealed, that [Ruby] carried but could not open." Is Ruby able to unlock her father's mysteries or does he remain unknowable to her? Does this metaphor resonate with you at all? If not, try to come up with another metaphor that creatively and accurately describes how a parent's past relates to you.
4. How do the Bronsteins deal with challenging situations and tragedy? In your view, do they remain strong and cohesive or in danger of splintering? Who is the most expressive member of the family? Who is the most honest? Who is the most compassionate?
5. Josef Bronstein lives by the maxim, "Life is the highest good... Whenever possible, choose life." What does this phrase mean, coming from a Holocaust survivor? What relevance does it have to a family that is forced to endure so much death? What see more

About the Author

Nellie Hermann
Photograph courtesy of the author

Nellie Hermann

Nellie Hermann is a native of Boston, Massachusetts, and a graduate of BrownUniversity and the MFA program at ColumbiaUniversity. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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