Source: Review copy
Publication: 13 April 2023 from Sandstone Press
My thanks to Sandstone Press for an advance copy for review
Imagine you could be rid of your sadness, your anxiety, your heartache, your fear.
Imagine you could take those feelings from others and turn them into something beautiful.
Lynx is a Grief Nurse. Kept by the Asters, a wealthy, influential family, to ensure they’re never troubled by negative emotions, she knows no other life.
When news arrives that the Asters’ eldest son is dead, Lynx does what she can to alleviate their Sorrow. As guests flock to the Asters’ private island for the wake, bringing their own secrets, lies and grief, tensions rise.
Then the bodies start to pile up.
With romance, intrigue and spectacular gothic world-building, this spellbinding debut novel is immersive and unforgettable.
I did enjoy this exploration of grief and loss in Angie Spoto’s debut novel. She has created a world in which the wealthy and the privileged (not necessarily both) have grief nurses. Distinguished by their white hair, these are people who can see and take others’ grief by means of touching their tokens – the receptacle for their grief. Such people – and they tend to be women – serve aristocratic families and we learn that grief nurses are passed down through families – they are inherited like valuable gems or old paintings
The Grief Nurse is a first person narrative by Lynx, a grief nurse in service to the Asters, a family who value their power and status, but whose old money is no longer as valuable as once it was. But ownership of a grief nurse is still a sign of the highest status and the Asters take every opportunity to put Lynx on display.
As the novel opens the Aster family are holding a wake for their eldest son on their island, Mount Sorcha and have invited the great and the good to attend. Lynx has taken away the grief of Mr and Mrs Aster so they are ‘Bright’ and keen to show off their lack of grief to their acquaintances. It is not just grief that Lynx can take; she also consumes dread and sorrow.
Angie Spoto’s world is full of beautifully named characters and is wonderfully atmospheric and replete with the most gothic imagery. Part murder mystery, part a meditation on the nature of grief, Spoto explores the nature of grief through her characters and contemplates the pros and cons of taking grief away.
Spoto’s descriptions of what happens to a grief nurse when she is taking away a grief and the representation of that action is very well done.
There were aspects I would have liked to see better explained – I did not wholly understand what a fader is, for example, but overall this was a beautifully written and fascinating book with a really innovative and impactful idea at its core.
Lynx is a terrific character. This is her coming of age story as she learns more about her power and how to use it as well as the impact that taking on so much grief has on her. Many of the characters are beautifully queer in a society where this is unexceptional.
Though this is an adult novel, it would not feel out of place in an older Y/A library.
Verdict: Well written with an interesting premise that captures the imagination, The Grief Nurse is fantasy grounded in a very real exploration of the nature of grief.
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Angie Spoto is an American fiction writer and poet living in Edinburgh. In 2020, she completed a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow. Her doctoral thesis was a fantasy novel, called The Grief Nurse, and a collection of essays on grief, madness and language. The Grief Nurse was shortlisted for the First Novel Prize 2021 and The Bridge Awards Emerging Writer Award in 2020
One thought on “The Grief Nurse by Angie Spoto @angiespotowrite @sandstonepress”
I’m going to the book launch for this on Thursday. I’ve had the book for ages since the Edinburgh Book Festival last year thanks to Ceris at Sandstone and rather embarrassingly haven’t read it yet! It is on my reading list for this month though!