Title: The Obituary Writer
Author: Ann Hood
Publisher: WW Norton & Company
Source: Read Turkish copy
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, 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.
Ann Hood is an author whose name I’ve come across here and there. And because I can’t pass anything without reading it first, I knew that she bases her stories on actual, historical facts. My meeting her took longer than I anticipated, and it was through The Obituary Writer. I picked it up without even reading a synopsis, just because the name sounded interesting to me. I do like historical novels except for historical romance, and The Obituary Writer makes you keep reading by making you curious, sad and excited all at the same time.
The Obituary Writer has two main characters: Claire and Vivien. We see both of their lives separately, in detail, get to know what they’re looking for, and their sorrows that come with the past as well as the present. However, the question that keeps hanging in the air is this: Claire lives in the 1960s, while Vivien’s story is set in 1919 and onward—these women will meet somewhere but where?! This book is worth reading even for only finding out the magical answer to this question, and Ann Hood makes it worth your while.
I’ve always enjoyed books that touch upon and question family ties and relationships. The Obituary Writer was one of the books that did that. On the other hand, I liked that little historical facts were sprinkled all over the story, like how they go to Western Union to send a telegraph.
In the book, Vivien is The Obituary Writer, and I read with interest how she deals with those close to the deceased. Then, I got rather sad when I realized that the obituaries written today are rather static and heartless. I also saw that even though hundreds of years might pass, people’s problems, happiness and sorrows don’t really change. And I can’t decide if this is a good or a bad thing. If you want to set sail to an adventure that will keep you on your toes, then The Obituary Writer might be the book for you.