The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood(5 out of 5)


This is my second favorite fiction title this year. The Book of Someday by Dianne Dixon continues to rule…but this little gem really did give it a fierce competition. This is Ann Hood’s fourth book, and I’m tempted to go back and read the other three. I read no reviews on this title at all, I just happened to find it at the store on Saturday when I was straightening the store after the last minute Father’s Day shoppers trashed the joint. I liked the cover right off the bat, and the book itself, well, what a story.

Two women- Vivien, in the early 1900’s, and Claire, in the boring turgid lifestyle of the 1960’s, are the two main characters. Vivien is an obituary writer who spends thirteen long, tortured years searching for the love of her life, David, a married man who is presumed missing in the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. She pours her sorrow and untied emotional ends into her job, helping the grieving masses find some closure and solace in the final obits of the loved ones they’ve lost. Flash forward to the 1960’s, where Claire is living what she believes to be a stable life with her husband and child in a “Pleasant Valley Sunday” type of neighborhood. A local boy disappears, and Claire is one of the last people to see him alive. This little detail sends her over the edge with guilt. She feels she should have done more, should have left her little suburban paradise of barely restrained routine, and went outside when she observed that white Ford following the group of boys. Her husband Peter tells her she’s being ridiculous, but that sense of foreboding and guilt sends Claire into an adulterous affair, one in which she realizes that the Eden she’s living in is really a mirage, and that this adulterous affair(the man she’s sleeping with is also married) is making her feel alive. She not only gets caught in the act by her husband, but she ends up pregnant. Peter’s mom suffers a serious heart attack and while in the hospital, Claire begins the process of self-discovery. Flash back to Vivien, who finds out from a newspaper article that a man who survived the earthquake but has amnesia, and she hopes it’s David. By this point, Vivien has found a man who starts to make her feel more alive again, and she begins to put her life together, but first she must travel to see if the man is David. Flash back to Claire, who is about to face the biggest test she’s ever been dealt. At the end of this book, you find out the connection between the two women, and you are completely in the dark until that moment. This is a small book- it’s only 292 pages, but holy crap, what a page turner it is! I had no freaking clue what was going to happen from one page to the next, and it never once lost any appeal. 

This book is not only compelling to the point that you can’t seem to put it down until you finish it, but both female leads are incredibly sympathetic characters. I am not a fan of fictional characters who cheat on their husbands/wives but in this case, I’m willing to make an exception. Both stories are explained with such wonderful turn-of-point and backstory, that you can’t help but feel like you understand their motivations in doing the horizontal slide with others. It doesn’t mean you condone it, rather that, it enrichs and further feeds a story which is chock full of potential roadblocks and emotional grenades that blow away the scenery. The supporting characters- Vivien’s best friend Lotte, who looks down upon her affair but who never loses the thread of friendship that they share, and who goes through her own hell that Vivien is able to help her through. Claire’s husband Peter, who you want to hate for his clinical approach to his marriage, but you end up liking the guy and hoping that he and Claire can work through their issues. Sebastien, who loves Vivien from afar but must wrestle with the ghost of the long-missing David. This book is unbelievably fantastic. I cannot believe that there’s been hardly any reviews or press around it. It’s hard to find a book like this, I don’t think I’ve read anything like this in a long, long time. I don’t think I have a novel that I can compare it to, it definitely stands alone. 

That won’t stop me from recommending the crap out of it. Go buy it and read it, you won’t be sorry. 

~ by generationgbooks on June 17, 2013.

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