Sunday, July 10, 2011
This story is narrated by 83 year old Essie Myles, obituary writer for a small town newspaper in a mid west small town. There are three plot lines going – Essie’s relationship with her family, her grandson Doc and great granddaughter Tiff; the local publication of the last in a series of gothic children’s books (read H. Potter) and the disappearance of a local girl who may in fact have never existed.
The plot meanders along as all of the characters are introduced. I absolutely loved the voice of Essie. I can’t remember when I last read a book that had an 83 year old narrator. She is a great character very much alive with a wisdom developed over a lifetime – I really cared for her.
The author gently satirizes the culture we live in where the news media relentlessly covers scandals and feeds the public obsession with these cases. When news of the missing girl Lenore isn’t available, news is manufactured to continue the story. There is real doubt as to whether Lenore ever existed, but in the end it doesn’t matter because the story has a life of its own.
The printing of the children’s books (last in the series is Coffins of Little Hope) is done by the presses at the local paper. The author of these books, a character in how own right, also becomes fascinated with Lenore’s disappearance and arrives on the scene to add to the hilarity of the story.
Essie’s relationship with the two people she cares for the most Doc and Tiff is nicely told. The friendship between Tiff and her great grandmother is believable and filled with the everyday moments that make up a life. Tiff is a child who has been abandoned by her mother, raised by her uncle Doc and now trying to reestablish a relationship with her mother. Essie stands with her as a support but encourages her to make her own choices in facing life.
The plot is almost incidental and really just lazes along. This definitely is not an action story. It is a story of delightful characters. In the end I felt like I really knew and liked these people. At less than 300 pages it isn’t a major time investment but for a summer read it is quirky, charming and memorable.
I read a copy of this book borrowed from The Free Library of Philadelphia