The Obituary Writer: A Novel

The Obituary Writer: A Novel

3.9 31
by Ann Hood
     
 

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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

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post - Amy Rowland
…a novel about one woman who gives her heart only to have it silenced and another who chooses stability over love, then regrets it…this is a beautifully structured, deeply empathic book that reminds the reader that a life of waiting is a life wasted.
Elizabeth Berg author of The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted and Tapestry of Fortunes
“The Obituary Writer is an engrossing book, drawing you in from page one. I admire this graceful and intimate writer for her literary sleight of hand: you don’t so much read about her characters as you inhabit them. Reading this book, I felt acutely the sadness of loss, the deliciousness of gossip among a group of women friends, the frustration of miscommunication in marriage, the joys of sensuality. Creating such empathy on the part of a reader isn’t easy: Ann Hood just makes it look that way. That’s a gift, and we readers are the lucky recipients.”
Andre Dubus III
“It is a rare novelist who can summon the creative nerve to plumb the depths of grief, but that's just what Ann Hood does here with such compassion and grace. The Obituary Writer is an unflinching exploration of loss and the love that somehow remains, one that both wounds and heals. This is a deeply engaging and moving book.”
Tom Perrotta
“In this poignant and incisive novel, Ann Hood brings history back to life in the most intimate way, chronicling the love affairs and heartbreaks of two very different women in two very different times. Moving gracefully and persuasively between post-earthquake San Francisco and the early 1960s, The Obituary Writer makes unexpected connections between these two bygone eras, and in the process, manages to illuminate the present as well as the past.”
Kirkus Reviews
Connections between an unhappy wife in the Kennedy era and an independent obituarist in early-20th-century California are artfully if predictably spliced in the latest from Hood (The Red Thread, 2010, etc.). Claire, mother of Kathy and wife to handsome, conventional Peter, could be a character on the set of Mad Men. As President John F. Kennedy is inaugurated, she is both preoccupied with the color of Jackie's outfit and skeptical about her marriage, which is proving to be an empty shell. In a parallel narrative set on the West Coast in 1919, we meet Vivien Lowe, who, as an obituary writer, has learned to "speak the language of grief" and is in love with a ghost. Her married lover, David, disappeared in the 1906 earthquake, but 13 years later, Vivien is still waiting for his return. Hood's engaging, detail-packed if static storylines dwell lengthily on the two women's moods of loss and uncertainty. Claire, who realizes she doesn't love Peter, found brief happiness with a lover, but Peter discovered the affair, and now, pregnant again, she feels trapped. A crisis involving Peter's 80-year-old mother, Birdy, leads to the settlement of all the women's fates. Hood's fluent storytelling and empathy will ensure popularity, but her heroines' destinies are devoid of surprises.
author of The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted and Tapestry of Fortunes - Elizabeth Berg
“The Obituary Writer is an engrossing book, drawing you in from page one. I admire this graceful and intimate writer for her literary sleight of hand: you don’t so much read about her characters as you inhabit them. Reading this book, I felt acutely the sadness of loss, the deliciousness of gossip among a group of women friends, the frustration of miscommunication in marriage, the joys of sensuality. Creating such empathy on the part of a reader isn’t easy: Ann Hood just makes it look that way. That’s a gift, and we readers are the lucky recipients.”
Booklist
“Hood’s language is fine and supple, the settings are lusciously rendered, the melancholy air is seductive . . . and her intricate inquiry into grief, guilt and love is haunting.”
Library Journal
Pushcart Prize winner Hood (Red Thread) artfully blends two stories that converge in an emotional, poignant ending. Vivien Lowe is an obituary writer in San Francisco obsessed with finding her lover, lost in the 1906 earthquake. She imagines him merely missing or suffering from amnesia because she cannot accept he might be dead; she knows that time does not heal, that grief never goes away. Meanwhile, decades into the future, privileged housewife Claire is bored with her marriage to Peter, a good provider but a demanding perfectionist, and launches an affair that Peter soon discovers. As this is 1961, she must stay in the marriage or risk losing their daughter. Despite a difficult pregnancy, Claire attends the 80th birthday party of her formidable mother-in-law, Birdie. Birdie's illness at the party unites the lives of Vivien and Claire, and their astonishing connection is revealed. VERDICT A well-constructed story leading readers from secrets of the past toward illuminating truths of the present. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 9/10/12.] —Donna Bettencourt, Mesa County Libs., Grand Junction, CO

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393081428
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
03/04/2013
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.40(d)

What People are saying about this

Elizabeth Berg
The Obituary Writer is an engrossing book, drawing you in from page one. I admire this graceful and intimate writer for her literary sleight of hand: you don’t so much read about her characters as you inhabit them. Reading this book, I felt acutely the sadness of loss, the deliciousness of gossip among a group of women friends, the frustration of miscommunication in marriage, the joys of sensuality. Creating such empathy on the part of a reader isn’t easy: Ann Hood just makes it look that way. That’s a gift, and we readers are the lucky recipients.

Meet the Author

Ann Hood is the editor of Knitting Yarns: Writers on Knitting and the best-selling author of The Book That Matters Most, The Knitting Circle, The Red Thread, Comfort, and An Italian Wife, among other works. She is the recipient of two Pushcart Prizes, a Best American Spiritual Writing Award, a Best American Food Writing Award, a Best American Travel Writing Award, and the Paul Bowles Prize for Short Fiction. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

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The Obituary Writer: A Novel 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
msmouseBG More than 1 year ago
Loved this book. I read it in one sitting. Characters were interesting and the story really makes you think about what is truly important in life. I could relate to Claire and her feelings towards her marriage and sense of hopelessness.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
WHAT A BREATHTAKING AND ENJOYABLE ADVENTURE IN WRITING.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Different but interesting story. Sometimes characters were a little creepy. In many ways, it reflects some of the shallow thinking of today. The idolization of weak leaders. This book is worth reading just for reflection on what is important. I would rate it an A for that reason alone.
LHDragonSun More than 1 year ago
I have been a huge fan of Ann Hood's work since I picked up a carefully worn copy of THREE LEGGED HORSE at a used book store several years ago. It was one of those books I felt the need to loan out after I had cherished it. Now, when I go to purchase fiction, I almost always look for Ann Hood's name first. I was thrilled to pull out my Nook before a recent vacation and see that she had a new novel published. As always, I had difficulty not reading when I had other things to do, and the characters and story sucked me in completely. Hood writes from the deepest part of her heart, and there is no greater compliment I can give to a writer. I loved this book.
lynnski0723 More than 1 year ago
How can a book filled with adultery pull at your heartstrings so? You want the best for Claire and Vivian but both are so blinded by their love of a man, they seem to forget to love themselves. I greatly enjoyed the storylines and the way it was written. I definitely recommend it.
JKW24 More than 1 year ago
Ms. Hood speaks of death and great love.  She shows us how deep love can be. Living in that past and only hanging on to lost love can wound us deeply and cause us to miss life. Death is a wounding that rarely heals, but softens as the years and experiences go forward. If we insist on the living in the past, we cannot go forward into a future we deserve. She teaches that truth is not always what we think it is. . . and in guessing we mistakenly hurt ourselves and others. It is a story that is complex but relevant in knowing how to live a full life. The writer is an expert at emotions and feelings.
AngieJG More than 1 year ago
I liked the story. It was a little too short for my taste.  I would have liked to more about all the characters, and certainly and ending that was more fleshed out. The novel ended abruptly, and I felt that the reader deserved more. There were editing issues as well.
Maggie42 More than 1 year ago
Perhaps a good beach read. I read in two sittings. Clearly Ms Hood was not an adult in the 60s and her timeline for Vivien's life is troubling. If Vivien was in her mid-thirties in 1919, it is unlikely she had a child 15 - 20 years later. Characters are stereo-typical and thin. Plot is so PREDICTABLE.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Liked the characters, story, but the ending still puzzles me.
MDTuck More than 1 year ago
This novel is written from the point of view of two women 50 years apart in time, but with a connection that is unknown to the reader. The author paints a credible and well wrought picture of the 1920's and 1960's - different customs, mores, dress and emotions.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An average novel, but you can use it to escape a rainy day. The chapters go back and forth from the early 1960s to San Francisco and the wine country with the main characters. The author's description of housewives in the early 1960s sounds very authentic. She cleverly disguises Birdy, the mother-in-law. I was very surprised to find out Birdy really was. My advice: wait until it comes out in paperback.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. It had enough of a mystery to keep it intriguing, while is also had a sweet love story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Oops. Res five :/
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Here. Results on May 22nd! Good luck!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is one of the most well written books that I have read in a long time. The title might appear to be a bit morbid; but the author justifies it by the way that the book is written. If you want to read a book about, Love, Loss,and the lengths that a person will go for Love; THIS IS THE BOOK!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting read, but I was looking for more in the ending.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Obiturary Writer is truly an exceptional book. I can say it is the best book I have ever read. Ann Hood brings you into the story and you feel like you are actually there, you are one of the characters. Story line is awesome. Could not put his one down. I plan to read other books by her.