From best-selling author Ann Hood comes a sophisticated and suspenseful novel about the poignant lives of two women living in different eras.
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.
©2013 Ann Hood (P)2013 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Have re-discovered "quality time." Evenings listening to good books have replaced mindless tv watching. What a difference!
It might be, but I have not seen the written version.
Vivian, because she had a deep understanding of what it takes to help a person process grief, although she had her own deep sense of loss through much of the book. The important thing was that in her role of writing obituaries, she knew that simple facts, such as birth and death dates, do not say anything about who the person *was* in their lives. She understood the power of healing narrative.
This book is an unusual exploration of human yearnings and grief told through parallel stories of two women struggling to find love, and make sense of losses through challenging circumstances. For one woman, Vivian, her lover has been lost in the great San Francisco earthquake, and she cannot give up hope of finding him. Claire, a woman living in the early 60's is agonizing over being with her husband or a man she has had an affair with (whose baby she is probably carrying). Initially it seems their lives have no connection, but the mystery unfolds through the book, which reveals how even the distance of half a century may be closed in unusual ways.
The most powerful parts of this book are the moving passages in which grief is explored. Through telling the stories of people who have died (as preparation for the obituaries she will be writing) Vivian helps those who are grieving bring the dead back to life in and through memory, which is a very healing process.
The attention to details in description also brings the entire book to life for the reader. Just as Vivian asks mourners for the smallest details of the lives of their loved departed, the author gives us small details of description that makes this book rich in a way that draws the reader deeply into it. Although the themes of death and loss permeate this book, it is a very compelling listen.
It is also very interesting to step back in time to two different eras, and realize what women's lives were like then. Each woman is facing and understanding her own struggle through the social ideas and pressures of her own time.
Love speculative fiction so I am always watching for great sci-fi or fantasy. But since I'm a book addict, any good writing works for me - mystery, historical fiction, classics, even great kids' books. Tend to steer clear of YA and romance, but sample some here and there since you never know where great stories or authors may be hiding :)
Ann Hood has crafted a rather beautiful, albeit short, tale of two women living in two time periods who both struggle with coping with loss (not only through death, but the loss of dreams and hopes) and how to move forward with their lives. The listener realizes almost immediately that these two stories must intersect at some point and you may figure out how well before the author reveals the connection between the two, but that will not detract from the tale. One of the stories is set primarily in 1919 and the other in 1961 and Hood does a nice job of bringing the listener into both time periods so that the setting is clearly playing a role in the story at all times. The characters are delicately drawn and distinct in this book - strangely, I found Vivien (the turn of the century character) much more independent and easier to identify with than the more contemporary Claire of the 60's but both women "rang true" as people. The stories are moving and interesting but this is not a really deep study of grief and it is not really long enough to make the listener sad, but certainly elicits some melancholy. My only real criticism of the book is the ending. After twining the two women's stories together throughout the book, the ending comes on very quickly and does not quite satisfy. Claire's story definitely seemed to end in the wrong place. A major aspect of Claire's grief would undoubtedly be some major guilt because her own very bad decisions lead to the worst of her loss, but the story "wraps up" so fast after the tragic event that there is no real exploration of that.
The book is too short to provide great new insights into grief, but it is a nice study of two women in different eras dealing with loss and the effect of the societies they live in on their coping mechanisms and their ability to move on.
Tavia Gilbert provides very competent narration. Her male voices are not great, but this book is quite "female-centric" so that is a minor flaw.
Yes to Tavia Gilbert.
Ann Hood is obviously good at making you want to turn the page, at crafting a compelling story. I'd probably try another, but if the payoff is as poor, I'd steer clear thereafter.
To excise a line in the last paragraph that leaves me wondering.
Tavia Gilbert was good, though I was continually taken aback by the pronunciation of "them" as "thum."
This novel weaves together two stories that take place forty years apart. The 1919 story has depth and treats grief with a degree of understanding that is unusual and on the mark. The 1960-61 story actually captures the time quite well, but the character elicits less empathy, due to her histrionics.
Addicted to Audible!
I enjoyed this book and think it would be a great book club pick. The exploration of grief from the perspective of 100 yrs ago was quite interesting to me as death is now one of our last taboo subjects. The parallel stories of the death of a marriage in the 1960's and the death of a lover in the 1900's was an interesting contrast. This book is all about the choices we make based on the societal norms of the time, grief and how we overcome and grow from it.
Retired CFO, Army wife, Mom of five, Grandma of six, two sons who served in combat, love to read books that reflect my values and faith, love mysteries, historical, military stories, and books that don't waste my time . . . if it doesn't have an ending that was worth the wait, I'm not a happy camper.
This book turned out to be one of my favorite audio books. The honesty with which it is written is so very valuable. Though it is fictional, the beautifully flawed lives of the women, Vivian and Clare, are portrayed in a way that is not judgmental. It does not detract from who these women are, doesn't make them more or less, just describes them. I love that the story begins in the early 1900s in San Francisco, in a beautiful place, where a young Vivian, full of optimism, trusts and makes choices that her best friend disagrees with. Then Clare, in the 1960s, when John F. Kennedy is running for President, is inspired by new ideas and has "fallen out of love" with her husband. Each story is fully told, running parallel, when of course, they are in two different time periods. But I did not find this distracting in the least. Each woman learning, growing, discovering for herself about friendship, marriage, dreams and reality . . . and gaining a wisdom that only life can teach.
I loved the character development. It was interesting to go from one era to the other.
Vivian--she had a life with tragedy and joy.
I enjoyed her voice.
A side by side story of two women of different generations dealing with death and their personal emancipation. Their lives are not compared nor do they contrast one another; they enhance each other if anything. Having been born in the 1950's I identified and enjoyed Claire's story more and it was a great reminder how far our place in the American family has evolved.
Eloquently written tales also of deep grief - something we all have to work through in our lives. Having also lived through my share, I found these parts especially touching. I enjoyed both tales and would recommend this book.
One point I do have to make is this book, though the premise is unique and most of thoughts are beautiful and touching, could not have been edited. Ann Hood needs to have twice as many people read her books before printed as she did this work. I would think she would be embarrassed.. Not only a lot of errors - but, also awkward sentences and wrong wording. One thing I just could not get over....tell me too how a man in his early 30's has a mother celebrating her 80th birthday?
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