The Other Room: Kim Triedman
Can two people live in the same world, know that they are both there living within the parameters of their home, marriage and go about their daily lives yet remain invisible to each other? When a child is taken from your life do you ever recover? Claudia and Josef deal with the death of their daughter Lily in different ways. Some find comfort in each other while others like Claudia and Josef become distant, cold and pretend that life is the same yet their directions are different. The book opens as we meet Claudia in the office of her psychotherapist, Stuart relating a vision, dream or moment that she tens to think is reality while in what the author titles: the other room. Visions of a room come into her mind and a bed that she is on finding her head and neck inside the crook of the arm of this man whom she is speaking with. But, he seems divorced from her story, comments and asks her “Where Shall We Begin,” as if their session never started and her words were not heard.
Fast forwarding to meeting her husband for lunch, we learn something about Josef from the start as their conversation is heated, his expectations of her low and her forgetting to bring him what he needed unforgiveable. As the author brings the reader right into her home finding him cooking his lone dinner and then leaving without another word. Two people as the author once again flashes into the mind thoughts of Claudia, who loved each other, whose touch mattered now live alone within the same world yet apart. A child that bonded them and whose material things have been discarded or hidden away so that Claudia does not even have one precious item to cling to including a scent from the child’s room. Living separate lives and turning to others and other outlets is not a life but an existence. But, will they realize it before it is really too late? Guilt, fear, resentment but what about hope, can they fill the empty hole within their hearts that lies there as a result of Lily’s death? But, just how did she die has yet to be revealed? These thoughts are revealed in her Blue Book or journal that she shares from the start when we hear her voice describing her feelings, the things about her daughter she misses and the room where she lived for so short a time devoid of anything that was Lily’s.
The story is told from three different perspectives as we hear Claudia, within this Other Room, how she relates to not only Stuart but the reader the events that led up to the death of her daughter, the reactions of herself and Josef, and her sister Yvonne. Next we get some insight into her perception of herself and how she often felt invisible and never really felt that she existed. Claudia seems highly disturbed and often shuts herself off from the realities that she has to face, hides herself from Josef and learns to ignore what others might be saying or thinking about her. From the moment she met him the relationship seems odd and her actions seemed rash as he fell into the arms of a stranger when someone else closed their’s. The author shares another side to this tragic story as she allows us to learn about Yvonne, Claudia’s twin sister, her physical disability and the fact that she seems to be buckling under either stress, a serious illness or hiding something. But, the harsh reality of Lily’s death comes to the forefront when both Yvonne and Claudia’s father are told of her death from the doctor in charge and alerted that the death is in question. The police informed and the questioning will begin as to just why and how Lily really died. Why did Claudia rush out of her house in her nightclothes all in disarray? Where was Josef?
Within the framework of this story the reader feels that Claudia is in denial about many aspects of her life and often compensates by rationalizing situations, pushing people away and deciding how she thinks or wants the event to come out and explains this to Stuart within the confines of The Other Room. But, what are truly disturbing about her are her fantasies about this man and her desire to do more than just get his approval and thoughts on what she relates to him but his emotions too. Told the D.A. needs to find out the facts and rule out homicide, suggesting they speak with a lawyer alerts readers that something is hidden and there is more to Lily’s death that has not been revealed. The death of a child changes people drastically and Josef and Claudia’s lives would never be the same as their relationship began to wither like a rose that was losing its luster and finally crumbled. Author Kim Triedman takes the reader inside the minds of Yvonne, Josef and Claudia as Claudia relates the events within this Other Room in her own voice. The Blue Book or the journal is quite revealing as she relates what happened after the death of her daughter until the truth is revealed. Can putting her thoughts within the pages of this book help her to deal with her grief?
Understanding her relationship with her parents, the blame she recounts for her mother’s untimely death and father distancing himself from her and relying on her sister helps the reader to understand just how alone she feels. A dinner engagement with Josef and some friends is delayed because he claimed to be tied up in the OR all day. Cold, isolated, unfeeling and hard to control her temper at times Claudia finds herself in many situations that could turn equally as tragic as her daughter’s death. Within so many different rooms alone with Stuart as she relates the experiences of each character, the events in chronological order and then hones in on the present in her Blue Notebook we see many sides of Claudia, hear her voice as she enters so many rooms from the past, the present and maybe even what she hopes for her future. Grief can be portrayed in many ways as the author allows Claudia to expose and exhibit many different emotions. Sometimes she seems accepting when at others she is angry, unfocused and distant. The scene with her boss when she is removed from a project and another editor is asked to complete her project shows just how disjointed she has become and how unaware of her actions she has become.
A family gathering during Thanksgiving brings out the resentment, her true feelings and frustrations. Both she and her sister have many unresolved issues that need to be addressed and both deal with them with anger, fear and lashing out. But, something changes everything as one simple sentence brings to light a hidden truth. As Yvonne says in simple words: one death should not have cost so many lives,” you wonder just how many were and still are affected by the death of a child and what really happened to her you just won’t believe. Throughout each chapter we hear Claudia describe the actions and feelings of different family members, friends and their reaction to what she is going through and the lack of understanding for her that her sister shows. Close when they were younger yet Claudia resented her in so many ways what will it take for her to find herself, understand who she is as a person and forgive herself and find her own inner peace. Her final session with Stuart is quite compelling, remarkable and enlightens the reader to just how astute Claudia really is and why some many hours, weeks and sessions within Stuart’s Other Room changed both of their lives but how? The untold feelings, the silence between them and her emotional conflicts and the final resolution will help readers understand that things changed drastically in her life and as we read her final entry in her Blue Notebook we have to wonder just what room Claudia will wind up in? Will she ever find herself? Will she open one door and find somewhere she really belongs? An ending quite compelling and will keep the reader wondering: Where is Claudia now and where will she wind up? Told so brilliantly through one voice and our narrator Claudia takes us through each event until the final present, author Kim Triedman allows readers to wonder what is next for Claudia? Will she find her inner peace or will she lock herself up in another Room? Two sisters each troubled different yet the same. Forgiveness comes at a high price only if you can forgive yourself first.
Fran Lewis: Reviewer