Driving with Dead People.
I ran across this book at Borders and kind of had to buy it. Driving! With! Dead People! The book description sounded like a Claire Fisher-esque memoir, which is definitely right up my proverbial alley. To whit:
Small wonder that, at nine years old, Monica Holloway develops a fascination with the local funeral home. With a father who drives his Ford pickup with a Kodak movie camera sitting shotgun just in case he sees an accident, and whose home movies feature more footage of disasters than of his children, Monica is primed to become a morbid child.
Yet, when I bought the book, I felt a sort of trepidation. I thought “Should I save the receipt in case this sucks? Maybe I shouldn’t write my name in it.” I eschewed this feeling and went full steam ahead, writing my name and the date in the cover as with all of my books and underlining phrases that struck me.
My underlining ceased about 25% of the way through the book. Holloway’s description of her early childhood are funny and touching. The way she sets up her memoir draws you in, waiting to see how this all unfolds.
And then… it’s a total, total disappointment. She runs through key events in her life with the speed of a bullet train. It’s very much a string of “and that happened.” Rarely does she stop to reflect beyond a paragraph or two. It goes from setting up a promising heroine to becoming a typical sob-story memoir along the lines of “MY LIFE WAS HARD!” This book could very well have been titled “It Sucked, But I Didn’t Cry Because My Dysfunctional Family Didn’t Allow Shows of Emotion.”
And the driving! And the dead people! It was passed over so quickly. The marketing sets up her friendship with the mortician’s daughter as central to the book, and certainly, the first 25% of the book promises that as well… but then, it’s just tangential to the greater story and she doesn’t even see a dead person being worked on until the last chapters of the book and it’s a really uncomfortable even to read about and obviously, obviously these details were oversold to give the memoir a uniqueness among all other “My family was a total mess that destroyed my life and I’m gonna write about it!” memoirs.
I definitely wish I had saved the receipt.