Is “The Obituary Writer” Writing Her Own Death?

th“The Obituary Writer” was made especially enjoyable by the stirring and emotionally charged women at its center.  I normally don’t prefer books that flash between characters, but it worked here.  Vivian in 1919 leads a bleak life capturing people’s sorrow as an obituary writer.  Caught up in a sordid love affair with a married man, she embodies socially oppressed women of the time.  Claire is struggling to lead a fulfilling life in 1960 on the eve of President Kennedy’s Inauguration.  Both women were absolutely compelling to follow, and their connection to each other was subtle, yet deep.  The writing was clean and quick, without sacrificing the descriptive writing I crave.

What was so moving here were the tornadoes within each woman willing them to break out of the social requirements of just being nice women, and to follow their hearts instead. Overall, the novel was excellent.  The themes lingered with me long after I closed the book.  Not only does the author present the theme that one should seek a fulfilling life by reaching beyond what one has, but she also intertwined that magnificently with not discounting what is in front of you.  This inner turmoil reminded me of the characters in “The Mermaid Chair” and “The Chaperone.”  These lessons are learned by both of our heroines in due time, and it was this growth that impressed me.  But this was also what made the ending a little bit of a let down.

Maybe it’s a sign of a good book that at the end I was both frustrated with, and happy for, these amazing characters.  The uniquely complex story was worth reading and I would recommend it to those who appreciate novels where the characters struggle through tough internal choices.


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