Today’s post by author Ann Hood
We’ve got a copy of Ann’s latest novel, THE OBITUARY WRITER, up for grabs today. Leave a comment on this post and we’ll enter you in the drawing.
Update: the winner of of this giveaway is Katherine Jones. She has been notified via email. Thanks to everyone who entered. Please check back soon for more great book reviews and giveaways!
At my friend’s dinner party, she seated me next to a man I did not know. Dinner that night was butternut squash lasagna, and lots and lots of wine. The man was witty and sophisticated, and he regaled me with stories of his years in the Middle East. With all the food and wine and conversation, the night became a pleasant blur, a successful dinner party.
A few days later, my friend called. In a flat voice, she told me Steven was dead from a heart attack. It took me a few minutes to realize that Steven had been my dinner companion. His round flushed face appeared in my mind just as she said: “Will you write his obituary?”
It is true that I am a fan of obituaries. I even have a favorite obituary writer, Robert McG Thomas, who wrote obits for the New York Times, including his own. But being a fan of reading obituaries is very different from actually writing one. Before I can explain any of this to my friend, she is reminding me that I told Steven I would do this.
“I did?” I manage to ask her.
“Yes. He said that he loved your writing and that you should write his obituary and you agreed.”
I want to tell her that I said that hypothetically, after lots of wine. I said that to a man who did not know he was going to die forty-eight hours later. But what I say instead is, “Of course I’ll write it.”
For the next few days, I worried over what to say about this man. What a responsibility it is, I realized, to sum up an entire lifetime in so few words. Remembering his love of his time in the Middle East, I read Arabic poetry and found quotes about life and love. I did not write an obituary, but rather a short story about this man.
In the end, I knew two things: that the day you were born, the degrees you acquired, the facts of your life, these things do not tell your story. And I knew that I would write a story about an obituary writer, a woman who moves through her own grief by honoring the grief of others. Yes, I wrote Steven’s obituary, but by doing so he, in a way, gave me a gift as well.
On the day John F. Kennedy is inaugurated, Claire, an uncompromising young wife and mother obsessed with the glamour of Jackie O, struggles over the decision of whether to stay in a loveless marriage or 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 Claire and Vivien will change the life of one of them 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.