Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Coffins of Little Hope

by Timothy Schaffert, Unbridled Books, April 2011

...for a summer read it is quirky, charming and memorable.

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


Zibilee said...

I really liked this one a lot too, and you are right, it was very quirky. I thought that the ending being left a little vague when it came to tying up loose ends was rather satisfying in a weird way. Great review, Kathy! I am glad that you enjoyed this one. It is a perfect summer read.

TheBookGirl said...

I can enjoy books that are all characters, and little plot...I've seen a couple of positive reviews, so I will keep this in mind when I am looking for a shorter, somewhat off-beat read.

Book Bound Musings said...

I'm stopping by from Cym Lowell's Book Review Party.
It's the first time I've heard about this book but it seems very interesting.

Thanks for the review.

Elizabeth said...


Stopping by from Cym Lowell's Book Party.

Sounds like an interesting book...THANKS.

Stop by my blog if you like for a giveaway of NIGHT TRAIN that ends on July 25.


A. Sparks said...

This book left me wanting much more than it gave. All the plots and all the characters were interesting and yes, quirky, and I loved them! But I never really felt satisfied that any of the plots or characters' dilemmas had been fully addressed. Maybe that was the point of the book? But if that is the point, fine, but I feel like I loved the book a little less because I couldn't ever gain intimate access to any one of the ideas of the book. I would love it if the author would use this book as a jumping off point and continued to explore the people in this town, Faulkner style!

Carole said...

A Sparks- I completely agree with you.
While I loved the characters (especially Essie and Tiff) and the overall feel of this story, I was left wanting much more from the story line and disappointed at the non-ending. It was clearly a different kind of book and most likely will be a memorable one, so all in all I am glad a I finally got around to it. Just wish I did feel as if I was being set up for a wrap up that never occurred.