On the day John F. Kennedy is inaugurated, Claire, a young wife and mother obsessed with the glamour of Jackie, struggles over the decision of whether to stay in a loveless but secure marriage or to follow the man she loves and whose baby she may be carrying. Decades earlier, in 1919, Vivien Lowe, an obituary writer, is searching for her lover who disappeared in the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. By telling the stories of the dead, Vivien not only helps others cope with their grief but also begins to understand the devastation of her own terrible loss. The surprising connection between these two women will change Claire s life in unexpected and extraordinary ways. Part literary mystery and part love story, The Obituary Writer examines expectations of marriage and love, the roles of wives and mothers, and the emotions of grief, regret, and hope.
This insomniac's opinion:
I've been anxious to read this novel for some time. I found the subject and the cover to be fascinating! I placed myself on two simultaneous wait lists for this novel: on Overdrive for the audio book version and with my local library for the print version. Imagine my surprise when both versions became available on the same day! I decided I would try a hybrid approach-read when I could, and supplement my reading with the audio book while driving, etc.
This was my first attempt at an audio book that was a fiction novel. I began listening to the audio book while driving between patient visits and found myself very much disliking the manner in which the woman reading the book was doing so. She used voices for the characters, including a squeaky little voice for the young girl in the story and a her attempt at a gruff, manly voice for all male characters. I was so intensely disliking the experience that I wasn't sure that I wanted to continue the book in any manner. However, I chose to return the audio book version and continue with the print version. I am so very glad that I did.
Ann Hood is a master at writing women characters, especially women in mourning. I recently learned that Ms. Hood lost a young child to sudden illness, and it makes me terribly sad to conclude that any mother who had lost a child would indeed be very intimate with mourning and loss.
This novel had dual narrators, Claire and Vivien. I was equally enthralled by both character, but found myself wondering throughout the novel how the two women, generations apart, were connected. The author does a wonderful job of connecting the two narrators at the end of the novel and allowing everything to come full circle. Truly a beautiful novel.
Worth staying up all night to read?
Yes! However, avoid the audio book version unless you enjoy childish voices and sound effects.
4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for Goodreads