Share 10 Novels About Grief and Healing To Help Us All Feel Less Alone

10 Novels About Grief and Healing To Help Us All Feel Less Alone

Alice Martin is a PhD candidate in English Literature at Rutgers University, where she obsesses over nineteenth-century women writers, the history of the publishing industry, and writing practices. She’s also a regular contributor to Shelf Awareness and a freelance writer and editor. Her writing has appeared in The Carolina Quarterly, Appalachian Heritage, and Sixfold among other publications. You can find her talking about books, food, and basketball (in that order) on Twitter @AliceJeanMartin.

Let’s face it: in the midst of these dark times, we are all going through processes of grief. Whether it’s the loss of a loved one, a job, or just the loss of certainty about the future, we all have something to mourn. But in hard times, it can be comforting to remember that we don’t have to grieve alone. While it may be difficult to collectively process what we are losing in a time of social distancing, books like these ten novels about grief remind us of what it means to recognize our own feelings in another person and how we can navigate those feelings together. When you finish one of these, recommend it to a friend. Connecting over a book that speaks to our current experiences can be the most healing encounter of all. 


Me for You
by Lolly Winston

It’s only been a few months since Rudy’s beloved wife died unexpectedly, and Rudy has started a new job playing piano at Nordstrom. There, he meets Sasha, a coworker who is in the midst of divorcing a no-good husband. Just as their tentative relationship begins to get off the ground, Rudy is confronted by the police, who are newly investigating his wife’s death as a murder. Meanwhile, Sasha’s ex keeps showing up. Humorous and poignant, ME FOR YOU is not only an exploration of loss, but a look at new beginnings. 

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo
Me for You
Lolly Winston

This “winsome story with charm to burn about second acts and second chances” (Jennifer Weiner, New York Times bestselling author) from the New York Times bestselling author of Good Grief asks us how soon is too soon to fall in love again?

Rudy never expected to be a widower at fifty-four-years-old. Now, ten months after the untimely death of his beloved wife, he’s still struggling with how to move on from the overwhelming tragedy—but at least his new job is helping.

After being downsized from his finance position, Rudy turned to his first love: the piano. As the piano player at Nordstrom, Rudy finds immense joy in bringing a little music into the world. And it doesn’t hurt that Sasha, the men’s watch clerk who is finally divorcing her no-good husband, finds time to join him at the bench every now and then.

Just when Rudy and Sasha’s relationship begins to deepen, the police reveal a shocking update about Rudy’s wife’s untimely death and now they want a second look at him, too. With Sasha’s husband suddenly reappearing, and Rudy’s daughter confronting her own marital problems, life becomes more complicated than Rudy and Sasha could have ever imagined.

Perfect for fans of Jennifer Weiner and Fredrik Backman, Me for You is “an immensely readable, emotionally honest examination of the aftermath of grief and loss. Lolly Winston masterfully weaves humor with pathos in this story of second chances, all-too-human foibles, unlikely love, and an uplifting message of hope” (Susan Wiggs, New York Times bestselling author).

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo
Close

The Last Post
by Renée Carlino

In THE LAST POST, one young widow will learn what it means to get a second chance at love. Laya and her husband, Cameron, were opposites: she was pragmatic and cautious, where he was bold and risk-taking. After Cameron dies in an accident on one of his adventures, Laya becomes obsessed with posting messages on his Facebook account, convinced he isn’t dead and will still come back to her. Micah, who works at Laya’s father’s businessnotices and dedicates himself to trying to coax Laya out of her grief and back into a full life. 

Amazon logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo Bookshop logo
The Last Post
Renée Carlino

In this evocative and poignant novel from the USA TODAY bestselling author of Blind Kiss and Wish You Were Here, a young widow in the midst of grieving her late husband through Facebook posts learns to heal and fall in love again.

“See you on the other side.”

Laya Marston’s husband, Cameron, a daredevil enthusiast, always said this before heading off on his next adventure. He was the complete opposite of her, ready and willing to dive off a cliff-face, or parachute across a canyon—and Laya loved him for it. But she was different: pragmatic, regimented, devoted to her career and to supporting Cameron from the sidelines of his death-defying feats.

Opposites attract, right?

But when Cameron dies suddenly and tragically, all the stages of grief go out the window. Laya becomes lost in denial, living in the delusion that Cameron will come back to her. She begins posting on his Facebook page, reminiscing about their life together, and imagining new adventures for the two of them.

Micah Evans, a young and handsome architect at Laya’s father’s firm, is also stuck––paralyzed by the banal details of his career, his friendships, and his love life. He doesn’t know what he’s looking for, only that there is someone out there who can bring energy and spirit to the humdrum of his life.

When Micah discovers Laya’s tragic and bizarre Facebook posts, he’s determined to show Laya her life is still worth living. Leaving her anonymous gifts and notes, trying to recreate the sense of adventure she once shared with her late husband, Micah finds a new passion watching Laya come out of the darkness. And Laya finds a new joy in the experiences Micah has created for her.

But for Laya, letting another man in still feels like a betrayal to her late husband. Even though Micah may be everything she could wish for, she wonders if she deserves to find happiness again.

Written with Renée Carlino’s signature “tender and satisfying” (Taylor Jenkins Reid, author of Maybe in Another Life) prose, this warm and compassionate novel shows us how powerful the courage to love and live again truly is.

Amazon logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo Bookshop logo

MENTIONED IN:

10 Novels About Grief and Healing To Help Us All Feel Less Alone

By Alice Martin | May 20, 2020

Close

The Salt House
by Lisa Duffy

Hope, Jack, and their three daughters live an idyllic life on the coast, growing their lobster businessuntil their youngest daughter dies suddenly in her sleep. A year later, each member of the family is still grieving in an isolated way. But after an old rival pushes Jack to the professional limit, the entire family must cope with new challenges and past traumas together to move on. THE SALT HOUSE offers a touching portrait of a family attempting to transcend profound loss. 

Amazon logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo Bookshop logo
The Salt House
Lisa Duffy

In the tradition of Jodi Picoult and Lisa Genova, this gorgeously written, heartbreaking, yet hopeful debut set during a Maine summer traces the lives of a young family in the aftermath of tragedy.

In the coastal town of Alden, Maine, Hope and Jack Kelly have settled down to a life of wedded bliss. They have a beautiful family, a growing lobster business, and the Salt House—the dilapidated oceanfront cottage they’re renovating into their dream home. But tragedy strikes when their young daughter doesn’t wake up from her afternoon nap, taking her last breath without making a sound.

A year later, each member of the Kelly family navigates the world on their own private island of grief. Hope spends hours staring at her daughter’s ashes, unable to let go. Jack works to the point of exhaustion in an attempt to avoid his crumbling marriage. Their daughters, Jess and Kat, struggle to come to terms with the loss of their younger sister while watching their parents fall apart.

When Jack’s old rival, Ryland Finn, threatens his fishing territory, he ignites emotions that propel the Kelly family toward circumstances that will either tear them apart—or be the path to their family’s future.

Told in alternating voices, The Salt House is a layered, emotional portrait of marriage, family, friendship, and the complex intersections of love, grief, and hope.

Amazon logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo Bookshop logo

MENTIONED IN:

10 Novels About Grief and Healing To Help Us All Feel Less Alone

By Alice Martin | May 20, 2020

5 Summery Reads to Pick Up When You’re Sick Of Winter

By Carrie Cabral | March 12, 2020

Close

Nora Webster
by Colm Toibin

NORA WEBSTER is an insightful, absorbing look at one woman’s mourning process and its effects on those around her by award-winning, critically acclaimed writer Colm ToibinIn Wexford, Ireland, Nora has just lost her husbandthe love of her life who rescued her from her stifling hometown. Now left with four children and no money, that same hometown threatens to swallow her whole again. Although Nora withdraws, harming the people around her and her children with her coolness, she also becomes increasingly capable of moments of great empathy.  

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo
Nora Webster
Colm Toibin

From one of contemporary literature’s bestselling, critically acclaimed, and beloved authors: a “luminous” novel (Jennifer Egan, The New York Times Book Review) about a fiercely compelling young widow navigating grief, fear, and longing, and finding her own voice—“heartrendingly transcendant” (The New York Times, Janet Maslin).

Set in Wexford, Ireland, Colm Tóibín’s magnificent seventh novel introduces the formidable, memorable, and deeply moving Nora Webster. Widowed at forty, with four children and not enough money, Nora has lost the love of her life, Maurice, the man who rescued her from the stifling world to which she was born. And now she fears she may be sucked back into it. Wounded, selfish, strong-willed, clinging to secrecy in a tiny community where everyone knows your business, Nora is drowning in her own sorrow and blind to the suffering of her young sons, who have lost their father. Yet she has moments of stunning insight and empathy, and when she begins to sing again, after decades, she finds solace, engagement, a haven—herself.

Nora Webster “may actually be a perfect work of fiction” (Los Angeles Times), by a “beautiful and daring” writer (The New York Times Book Review) at the zenith of his career, able to “sneak up on readers and capture their imaginations” (USA TODAY). “Miraculous...Tóibín portrays Nora with tremendous sympathy and understanding” (Ron Charles, The Washington Post).

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo

MENTIONED IN:

10 Novels About Grief and Healing To Help Us All Feel Less Alone

By Alice Martin | May 20, 2020

Close

Lily and the Octopus
by Steven Rowley

A national bestseller, LILY AND THE OCTOPUS is a poignant, eccentric novel about a man and his canine companion. Ted, single and struggling, can’t seem to open up to anyone except his elderly dachshund Lily. So, when Ted gets the news that Lily’s health is failing, he sets the two of them on a journey to find a cure. By turns funny and heartrending, and dotted with magical realism, Steven Rowley’s unforgettable novel explores the joys of holding on tight and the pains of letting things go. 

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo
Lily and the Octopus
Steven Rowley

Ted and his elderly dachshund are at the center of this story of steadfast companionship, loss, and longing that will break your heart and put it back together again. The two share a comfortable life spent chatting about boys, playing board games, and ordering pizza just so Lily can bark at the delivery boy. But then the Octopus arrives and their simple little world begins to change. By turns hilarious and poignant, LILY AND THE OCTOPUS is a book you’ll never stop talking (and crying) about.

Read the full review of LILY AND THE OCTOPUS.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo

MENTIONED IN:

10 Novels About Grief and Healing To Help Us All Feel Less Alone

By Alice Martin | May 20, 2020

6 Books with Happy Endings That Give Us Hope for a Brighter Tomorrow

By Maddie Ehrenreich | April 21, 2020

The Perfect Blend: 12 Book and Tea Pairings

By Sarah Jane Abbott | February 25, 2020

8 Novels That Will Warm You Up From the Inside

By Keturah Jenkins | October 16, 2019

9 Must-Read Novels That Will Add Magic to Your Literary Diet

By Sarah Jane Abbott | October 4, 2019

A Menagerie of Books: 9 Reads for Animal Lovers

By Sarah Jane Abbott | April 22, 2019

Close

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry
by Fredrik Backman

From the author of A MAN CALLED OVEMY GRANDMOTHER ASKED ME TO TELL YOU SHE’S SORRY is another humorous, moving tale of friendship and grief. Seven-year-old Elsa is different, just like her best friend, her seventy-seven-year-old grandmother, who tells her magnificent fairy talesAfter her grandmother’s death, Elsa finds letters her grandmother wrote apologizing to everyone she’d wronged. Elsa embarks on a journey to deliver the lettersa journey that leads her to the edges of her grandmother’s fairy tales and back. 

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry
Fredrik Backman

A charming, warmhearted novel from the author of the New York Times bestseller A Man Called Ove.

Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy—as in standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-strangers crazy. She is also Elsa’s best, and only, friend. At night Elsa takes refuge in her grandmother’s stories, in the Land-of-Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas, where everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal.

When Elsa’s grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged, Elsa’s greatest adventure begins. Her grandmother’s instructions lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and old crones but also to the truth about fairy tales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry is told with the same comic accuracy and beating heart as Fredrik Backman’s bestselling debut novel, A Man Called Ove. It is a story about life and death and one of the most important human rights: the right to be different.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo

MENTIONED IN:

10 Novels About Grief and Healing To Help Us All Feel Less Alone

By Alice Martin | May 20, 2020

Close

What We Lose
by Zinzi Clemmons

A brutally honest American coming-of-age tale, WHAT WE  LOSE is Zinzi Clemmons’s stunning and critically acclaimed debut. Thandi, who grew up learning about her mother’s own childhood in Johannesburg, feels like an outsider everywhere. Not all black, and not all white, part American and part immigrant, Thandi struggles to connect the pieces of her identity as she grows up alongside her mother’s battle with cancer. Told through a series of exquisite vignettes, this novel follows Thandi through the loss of her mother, around romantic entanglements, and into becoming a mother herself. 

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo
What We Lose
Zinzi Clemmons

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo

MENTIONED IN:

10 Novels About Grief and Healing To Help Us All Feel Less Alone

By Alice Martin | May 20, 2020

Close

The Beginner's Goodbye
by Anne Tyler

THE BEGINNER’S GOODBYE, by Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and beloved storyteller Anne Tyler, is a charming story about recovery that follows a man coping with the death of his wife. Crippled in his right arm and leg, Aaron is frustrated by his family’s attempts to manage his life. He finds freedom in his marriage to Dorothy, an independent woman with whom he runs a small publishing press for how-to books. After Dorothy’s sudden death, however, Aaron begins to receive visits from his dead wife, who is dedicated to helping him move on. 

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iTunes logo Indiebound logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo
The Beginner's Goodbye
Anne Tyler

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iTunes logo Indiebound logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo

MENTIONED IN:

10 Novels About Grief and Healing To Help Us All Feel Less Alone

By Alice Martin | May 20, 2020

Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
by Jonathan Safran

In the wake of the collective trauma that was 9/11, nine-year-old Oskar is determined to solve a mystery that his father, who died in the World Trade Center, left behind. Oskar now has a distinctive looking key, and he knows it is his mission to find the lock it belongs to. The journey will take Oskar far beyond the safety of his home and into the lives of other survivors, struggling to cope. Tender and gently humorous, EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE is a guide to communal healing. 

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Jonathan Safran

Meet Oskar Schell, an inventor, Francophile, tambourine player, Shakespearean actor, jeweler, pacifist, correspondent with Stephen Hawking and Ringo Starr. He is nine years old. And he is on an urgent, secret search through the five boroughs of New York. His mission is to find the lock that fits a mysterious key belonging to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo

MENTIONED IN:

10 Novels About Grief and Healing To Help Us All Feel Less Alone

By Alice Martin | May 20, 2020

11 Novels About 9/11 Worth Reading

By Julianna Haubner | September 11, 2017

14 Books Worth Revisiting From Today’s Best Writers

By Wendy Sheanin | August 18, 2016

Listen to the Kids! 12 Memorable Novels With Child Narrators

By Off the Shelf Staff | November 10, 2015

8 Great Books Told by Child Narrators

By Off the Shelf Staff | November 6, 2014

A Book About 9/11 That Feels The Same Way You Do

By Kevin Myers | September 11, 2014

Close

The Last Romantics
by Tara Conklin

New York Times bestseller, THE LAST ROMANTICS is a vivid and generous novel about the strength and fragility of family bonds. When poet Fiona Skinner is asked about what the inspiration behind her most famous book is, Fiona responds with the story of herself and her three siblings and one life-defining summer. After that summer, the siblings moved forward into the rest of their lives deeply devoted and bonded to one another. Now, decades later, a family tragedy will test those bonds, once and for all. 

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo
The Last Romantics
Tara Conklin

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo

MENTIONED IN:

10 Novels About Grief and Healing To Help Us All Feel Less Alone

By Alice Martin | May 20, 2020

Close

Photo Credit: Tunatura/iStock

Thank you for joining our email list!

If you create an Off the Shelf account, you'll be able to save books to your personal bookshelf, and be eligible for free books and other good stuff.

Click here to create your free account.

You must be logged in to add books to your shelf.

Please log in or sign up now.