Looking at the cover of Ann Hood’s THE OBITUARY WRITER, I was not sure what to expect. I know that she is well known for her works THE KNITTING CIRCLE and THE RED THREAD, but this looked very different. It opens in 1960 when the country is caught up in the Kennedy/Nixon election. Claire is a young mother who, along with her friends, idolizes Jackie O. Over dinner parties and cocktails, couples are caught up in the moment when the country feels young and vibrant and ready for a change. Young housewives are greeting their husbands as they come home from dinner, but as they move through their routines, they also are restless. And Claire’s restlessness prompts her to start an affair that unlocks parts of her that makes her feel alive. She also finds herself pregnant, which leads to new questions.
The story then moves back to 1919, and we meet Vivien Lowe, who is wondering what happened to her lover who disappeared in the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. Vivien has made a name for herself writing very personal obituaries in which she brings out the best of those who have passed, giving their loved ones something special to remember them by. All the time, she herself is mourning.
Both are powerful stories with historic period details that are well-crafted. And then the stories collide, as I was expecting they would, but even then the twists and turns make for great reading. There’s a lot to discuss, and it will be great for book groups. Seeing what different generations of women think about it would be very telling. By the way, it makes me want to shake up some cocktails and throw a great dinner party --- and maybe even wear an apron. Yes, I was definitely swept up in this book!