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The Obituary Writer

The Obituary Writer
Ann Hood
Publish date: 2013-03-04
Review date: 06-05-2013




The Obituary Writer is a novel that looks at two women who are both at odds with the voice inside that speaks quietly of greater possibility.  Two women, two separate eras;  one is an accidental obituary writer living in the California Bay area in 1919, while the second is a young mother living in New England during the Kennedy campaign and election. 

The obituary writer was my favorite character because of her independence as a woman living in a time when the expectations of women were neatly defined.  She, however, chose to follow her heart and search for her lover who went missing after the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. As a result of her search, Vivien stumbles upon the arduous task of writing obituaries for the loved ones of the newly grieving who find their way to her door.  Her calm spirit and gentle hospitality allows for her guests to let their grief flow out of them, find its way to her writing table, and into the newspaper as a beautiful and noble commemoration, rather than a list of facts.   It is through these brief relationships that Vivien is able to understand her own longing and grief for a man she believes is not dead but instead lost somewhere in the world, with no memory of his former life.

Claire is a mother and homemaker living in a loveless marriage.  She is obsessed with Jackie O. and spends her days chasing her daughter, chatting with the neighborhood wives and attending dinner parties with her cold and assuming husband.  Clearly, Claire needs more.  When a new couple moves into town and into a house that holds its own dark past, Claire finds the spark that has been missing.

Vivien and Claire's lives do finally intersect, but Ann Hood's look at time, place and the human condition is the what drives this story.