Monday, 19 January 2015

The Undertaker's Daughter by Kate Mayfield

“The first time I touched a dead person, I was too short to reach into the casket, so my father picked me up and I leaned in for that first, empty, cold touch. It was thrilling, because it was an unthinkable act.

When Kate Mayfield was born she was taken straight to the funeral home where her family lived. Her father was the undertaker of the small town Jubilee in Kentucky. Consequently, Kate grew up surrounded by corpses as her father dealt with the towns deceased.

Life above the funeral home was much tougher for Kate. There she lived with her mother and father, brother and sisters. Kate soon learned that life upstairs amongst the living was much more challenging than downstairs amongst the dead.

This is a very interesting memoir in which the author looks back on growing up in a small town in Kentucky in the 1960’s and 70’s.

The cast of characters that inhabited the world of her childhood and youth were wonderfully eccentric and diverse and she describes them in such a way that I felt I knew these people personally. Kate herself, was very easy to engage with and she tells her story well.

At times it made uncomfortable reading as methods used by an undertaker in preparing the dead were described. However, it was not overly described so did not make me feel squeamish. These sections of the book were handled with sensitivity.

This book is very aptly titled as the focus of the book really is on the relationship between Kate and her father. She appears to describe her father with great honesty whilst never forgetting the flaws of the man. As a reader I respected her for her sensitive portrayal of him.

However, without doubt, Kate lays bare the dysfunctional relationships within her family. How much of that can be attributed to the unusual circumstances in which the family live, she leaves the reader to decide.

What I really liked about this book is that although it deals with some very difficult themes it is an optimistic book. It never becomes depressing to read and demonstrates how people learn to cope with the difficult circumstances which life throws at them.

This is an interesting coming of age memoir which anyone with an interest in relationships would enjoy.

ISBN:   978 1471134470

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Price: £10.39

About the Author: 

Kate Mayfield is co-author of Ten Steps to Fashion Freedom and Ellie Hart Goes to Work. She attended Western Kentucky University before moving to Manhattan where she graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. After living in New York and Los Angeles she now lives in London.

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