Sunday, March 31, 2013

Book Review: "The Obituary Writer" by Ann Hood

In 1960, Claire is the perfect suburban housewife—she knows how to have the perfect drink ready for her husband when he comes home from work, she is up on her current events, caters to her husband's every need, and she realizes how lucky she is to have married a true provider, ensuring a good future for her family. But a crisis in their neighborhood leaves Claire out-of-sorts, and leads her into the arms of another man. As the world readies for John F. Kennedy's inauguration as president, she finds herself pregnant and unsure what path her future should take—should she do what is expected of her or should she follow her heart?

Years earlier, in 1919, Vivien Lowe is working as an obituary writer in California. She is able to perfectly capture the essence of those others have lost, and she knows people's grief all too well, as she lost her lover during the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. Despite the years that have passed, she has remained convinced he's suffering from amnesia and is unable to get back home. When her closest childhood friend experiences a tragedy, Vivien must decide whether to continue searching for her lost love, or moving on with her life.

Ann Hood's newest novel, The Obituary Writer, tells both Vivien and Claire's stories, in alternating chapters. While their circumstances and challenges are different, the two women are more similar than they appear, and the connection between the two will ultimately help one move forward.

I really enjoyed this book, and read the majority of it in one day. While there isn't anything that is necessarily unique about either woman's story, Hood really captured the tone and the setting of each character really effectively, and I was hooked pretty quickly. The connection between the two women was fairly easy to figure out, but that didn't detract from the book's appeal, because Hood is an excellent storyteller. I found the ending a little ambiguous and would love to discuss the book with someone else who has read it to see if my interpretation and theirs were the same!

While the description of the book calls this "part literary mystery," I don't think that is accurate. What I do think it is, however, is a really well-told, well-written story worth reading.


  1. I had the same issue with the ending - did Claire stay with her husband, or did she leave? My hope is that she was able to break away...

  2. Most of my book club thought she left.Two thought she stayed.