The Other Room
Owl Canyon Press, 10/08/2013
Three years after the sudden, mysterious death of their one-year-old daughter Lily, Josef Coleman, a high-strung New York surgeon, and his editor wife Claudia MacInnes remain mired in anguish and grief. Their mourning has left them reaching out for different things in different ways: Josef for a primal, physical connection that Claudia can no longer bear, and Claudia for a connection of the soul that Josef has never really known how to offer. To numb his pain and attempt to fill the gaping hole of loss, Josef turns to a young surgical nurse named Kiera; Claudia, meanwhile, is drawn into what seems like an unrequited fantasy about her psychotherapist, Stuart. The time she spends in his office — this “other room” where she can allow herself to project into the future — becomes a rare bright spot in her weeks.
The couple’s extended families soon become implicated in the unraveling of their lives. Bit by bit, haunting pasts and their impact on the present are revealed, as is the chilling truth about Lily’s death. Interwoven with Claudia’s meticulous journal entries offering glimpses of a sunnier future, the story ultimately takes a surprising turn, reaffirming that in tragedy’s wake lie redemption, reckoning and peace.
The Other Room is published by Owl Canyon Press, a small literary publisher based in Boulder, CO, that takes pride in supporting exceptional new voices and English-language editions of international literature.
“…Through her sparse prose Triedman conveys a sense of inexorable emptiness that accompanies great loss.”
– Publisher’s Weekly
“One of the 12 Most Memorable Debuts of 2013!”
– Author Exposure
“The Other Room brims with intensity, focusing a laser beam on the way love, grief, infidelity, suspicion, disappointment, and hope can collide in a close extended family after a child’s death. Triedman is a keen observer of the human psyche, and her prose breathes with the rhythms of real life.”
– Jessica Treadway, author of Please Come Back To Me, Winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction
“Kim Triedman’s The Other Room is a gorgeous meditation on what the death of a child can do to a family that prefers silence over exhibition. With her pristine sentences, she depicts how even the simplest of moments can stretch the lives of the survivors dangerously thin. The book brims with yearning, circling both the reckless and selfish sides of love and grief until the novel reaches a fever pitch. This is the true work of a poet enriching every possibility of narrative.”
– Michelle Hoover, author of The Quickening, Winner of the PEN/New England Discovery Award for Fiction
“Kim Triedman brings a poet’s eye for detail to this complex family story. Her spare, pointillist prose perfectly reflects the stark terrain of grief and its possibilities for renewal.”
– Christopher Castellani, author of All This Talk of Love
“Triedman jolts you with her flesh-and-blood characters as they navigate a landscape of secrets and self-discovery following upon an unspeakable loss. A visceral, sensuous read.”
– Kate Southwood, author of Falling to Earth
“In The Other Room, Kim Triedman uses her considerable skills as a poet to create a graceful sensual story of loss and love, with a startling revelation at its heart.”
– Anne Korkeakivi, author of An Unexpected Guest
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Excerpt from THE OTHER ROOM
This was the amazing thing: I could walk into a roomful of strangers and nobody would know. My body and my face would move through the world as though nothing had happened, swaddling their secrets. I used to walk down the street pretending I was someone coming up from the other direction, imagining what I looked like from the outside. It was not a game, but it was something I did, I could not help it. Carrying groceries in from the car I would rest by the stoop and think: I am a woman carrying groceries into her house.
My sister, for one, took great pains to get me out into the world. It seemed to matter to her: that I could walk and talk like a real person, that I could do my hair. She’d drag me along from one store to the next, chatting up the sales ladies in a voice that was just a shade too eager, holding dresses up in front of me by the three-way mirrors. These things brought comfort to her, I believe, as though doing them brought us all closer to what we had been before. It wasn’t her fault, that she didn’t understand, that doing those things that people do only made me more and more a stranger to myself. I should have told her. Every day I sat high on my shoulder and watched the world watching me, patting itself on the back at how remarkably well I was coming along.
But that is where the danger lies, knowing that to the rest of the world we are valued above all else for our ability to deny it betray it forget it ever happened: to survive. The last Monday in March I went to the dentist by myself. It was like learning to walk again, or draw a breath: out and alone for the first time in months. I was purely terrified. But Josef was all smiles when I returned. I understood that he had been waiting, eager to put a spin on this, my first solo. It was like Yvonne: his own needs masquerading as mine. I could feel his reaction as soon as I saw his car in the driveway, before I ever made it in the door.
“Hey!” His voice was buoyant, like a cheer. It made me want to step on something, grind it into the floor with the toe of my shoe.
“Hi.” I could feel my own voice resisting, hard and flat.
“So…how’d it go at the dentist?” Big grin.
I couldn’t look at him, couldn’t bear to come face to face with all his eagerness. He stood there, waiting, while I slipped my coat off and looped it onto the rack.
“It was a dentist appointment, Josef. My teeth are clean.”
It was harsher than I’d intended. I could feel him recoil but I couldn’t make myself care. Heading for the stairwell, I could feel him trailing me, a few steps behind.
“It’s great you did it by yourself, Claud.”
I kept walking, eyes straight ahead, one step at a time.
“You couldn’t have done that a month ago, you know?”
I rounded the landing and headed down the hall, making for the bedroom door.
“I really think you should feel good about this, Claud.”
I could feel him closer and closer behind me and I turned, abruptly, glared at him through the tears that were just beginning to form.
“It was a fucking dentist appointment, Josef! You go feel good about it if you want to. The last time I went, I brought Lily with me and they gave her a sticker with an elephant. We went out to lunch afterwards, and she told me not to eat because my teeth looked so clean.” Something heaved high up in my throat and I swallowed hard. “I was just a mother going to the dentist. I don’t even know if I’m a mother anymore. Are you a mother if you don’t have a child, Josef? Or are you something else? I’ve been wondering about that. I don’t feel like I’m ever going to be what I was before, so please, please stop waiting for me to start acting like myself. I don’t even know who that is anymore!”
He didn’t try to say anything else. I could see the film of tears in his eyes as I spoke, but I left him there anyhow, standing outside our bedroom, his large hands open and useless. I turned and closed the door behind me, pulling until I felt it wedge itself hard into the jamb, and then I walked to each of the windows to draw the shades down tight to their sills. I dropped my clothes into a small pile by the hamper, and slipped my earrings into my hand and onto the bureau, next to the wedding ring that was now too large for my shrunken finger. Shivering I climbed naked into bed and curled into a fetal ball, both hands clawed tightly around my crotch.
Outside my door, I heard nothing for a very long time, and then the drag of Josef’s boots as he made his way back down the hall and into the bathroom.