18—The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood

W.W. Norton & Company, 2013

This exquisitely written novel is an exploration of love, love lost, grief, and the staying power of the human heart.

The story takes place in two place and in two different times and the connection between the times is not made clear till the last 50 pages.

In 1919 we meet Vivian, a young woman whose lover disappeared during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. She has put her life on hold, holding out the hope that her lover is alive and perhaps a victim of amnesia. As her story opens she Vivian has moved from San Francisco to Napa to be near her best friend and her family. Through a serendipitous event she has become an Obituary Writer and it is only through helping people come to terms with their grief that she is able to carry on while carrying her own grief.

In 1963 we meet Claire, a young mother of 1, who is in a loveless marriage to  Peter a successful government worker. They live in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. When the story opens Peter has found Claire in the arms of another man. Claire and her lover stopped seeing one another but Claire no longer loves Peter and her lover is the polar opposite of Peter. She grieves for her lost lover. Claire is pregnant and believes the baby is her lovers.

Peter met her lover at the Kennedy campaign headquarters. She and her circle of friends are planning an inauguration night party but Claire and Peter are unable to attend because they  have to drive to Providence, Rhode Island to celebrate Peter's mother's 80th birthday.

Hood's ability to evoke the time periods of the novel are unparalleled, especially the 60s. She also, quite well evokes the grief and suffering of both women, perhaps she does this so well because her  daughter died at a very early age.

This is a terrific read.

© Surveyor of the Passing Scene