SHIVAH begins with a death and ends with a redemption.

A middle-aged woman, her sisters, and her aunt, finally manage to trick Mother into an alcohol rehabilitation program only to find, once Mother has dried out, that there is something terribly wrong.  She has Alzheimer’s and has had for some time. Once the diagnosis is determined, it is clear that Mother will not allow herself live a sober life: she will continue to self-medicate, she will sink further into the spiral of her own depression and memory loss, and she will, effectively, say good-bye to the little time she has left. Having hidden the disease for some three years, Mother is grateful to give up the subterfuge.

The diagnosis serves as a prompt for her eldest daughter, Leah, the narrator of SHIVAH, to mourn the loss of all possibility of a relationship with her mother, as she also realizes that Mother’s life is largely unknown to her.  And Leah  feels great guilt at having assumed her mother’s past two years of confusion and anger were due to late-night drinking rather than the slow loss of her mind. She tries to discover and then create Mother’s life, honestly assess contradictory relationship she has had withMother, while taking great pains to honor the Biblical imperative to parents.

The novel is divided into seven parts to mimic the seven days of shivah, the Jewish period of mourning, in which mourners enter the home of the bereaved and sit and pray with them.  But the seven sections of the novel highly symbolic and metaphorical, as they are loosely constructed around rituals observed during shivah:  the grief at the initial loss, the washing of the hands, the ceremonial meal, the telling of stories about the deceased, the reciting of the prayers for the dead, the examination of the souls of the living and the statements of comfort for those left behind.  SHIVAH is both a spiritual and emotional journey for Leah but it is not a sad one; there is joy, happiness, peace, true knowledge and, ultimately, understanding.


SHIVAH is a moving meditation on the multiple, complex, and often conflicting layers of grief. Through her narrator’s spiraling introspection, Solod asks what it means to lose someone long before you’ve lost them, to grieve what might have been as well as what was.

—Ilana Masad, author of All My Mother’s Lovers


“The ritual of SHIVAH offers comfort and connection, a way to let mourners know they aren’t alone in their grief. Lisa Solod’s thoughtful, moving novel named for this ritual does the same. Anyone who’s dealt with an alcoholic mother, or an emotionally abusive mother, or a mother with dementia or similarly painful and complicated issues, will find comfort and connection in these pages. I found so many echoes of my own complex mother and our tangled relationship in this novel, myself, and am grateful for the sisterhood and insight Lisa Solod provides.”

—Gayle Brandeis, author of The Art of Misdiagnosis


SHIVAH is a sad and enlightening portrait of three daughters who are suffering through their mother’s demise from Alzheimer’s. Touching despite its rage over the terrifying effects of this particular illness, the novel illuminates the inevitable downward trajectory of a fatal disease often misunderstood. Solod gives her readers a command performance—one that leaves the reader filled with empathy and sympathy both.”

—Linda Gray Sexton author of Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to My Mother, Anne Sexton, and Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide


“But grief has its own timeline,” just like these words, SHIVAH honors and reveals Lisa Solod’s ability to cut into the soul of grief. I felt privileged to be let into the multilayered relationship between a daughter and her mother.”

—Carly Israel, author of Seconds and Inches