What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Well two memoirs dealing with the same subject.....
First up was We'll Be The Last Ones To Let You Down by Rachel Hanel.
From the University of Minnesota Press:
"Rachael Hanel’s name was inscribed on a gravestone when she was eleven years old. Yet this wasn’t at all unusual in her world: her father was a gravedigger in the small Minnesota town of Waseca, and death was her family’s business. Her parents were forty-two years old and in good health when they erected their gravestone—Rachael’s name was simply a branch on the sprawling family tree etched on the back of the stone. As she puts it: I grew up in cemeteries.
And you don’t grow up in cemeteries—surrounded by headstones and stories, questions, curiosity—without becoming an adept and sensitive observer of death and loss as experienced by the people in this small town. For Rachael Hanel, wandering among tombstones, reading the names, and wondering about the townsfolk and their lives, death was, in many ways, beautiful and mysterious. Death and mourning: these she understood. But when Rachael’s father—Digger O’Dell—passes away suddenly when she is fifteen, she and her family are abruptly and harshly transformed from bystanders to participants. And for the first time, Rachael realizes that death and grief are very different.
At times heartbreaking and at others gently humorous and uplifting, We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down presents the unique, moving perspective of a gravedigger’s daughter and her lifelong relationship with death and grief. But it is also a masterful meditation on the living elements of our cemeteries: our neighbors, friends, and families—the very histories of our towns and cities—and how these things come together in the eyes of a young girl whose childhood is suffused with both death and the wonder of the living."
Next up was Nine Years Under: Coming of Age in an Inner-City Funeral Home by Sheri Booker.
From Gotham Books:
"Six Feet Under meets The Wire in
a dazzling and darkly comic memoir about coming-of-age in a black funeral home
Sheri Booker was only fifteen years old when she
started working at Wylie’s Funeral Home in West Baltimore. She had no idea that
her summer job would become nine years of immersion into a hidden world.
With AIDS and gang violence threatening to wipe out a generation of
black men, Wylie’s was never short on business. As families came together to
bury one of their own, Booker was privy to their most intimate moments of grief
and despair. But along with the sadness, Booker encountered moments of dark
humor: brawls between mistresses and widows, and long-winded preachers who
forgot the names of the deceased. While she never got over her terror of the
embalming room, Booker learned to expect the unexpected and to never, ever cry.
This vibrant tour of a macabre world reveals an urban funeral culture
where photo-screened memorial t-shirts often replace suits and ties and the dead
are sent off with a joint or a fifth of cognac. And like Fun Home and
the books of Thomas Lynch, Nine Years Under offers readers an
unbelievable glimpse into an industry in the backdrop of all our lives."
(Over the Counter is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World. I've sadly come to the realization that I cannot physically read every book that catches my interest as it crosses over my counter at the library. But...I can mention them and maybe one of them will catch your eye as well. See if your local library has them on their shelves!)