The Obituary Writer: A Novel (Paperback)

The Obituary Writer: A Novel By Ann Hood Cover Image

The Obituary Writer: A Novel (Paperback)

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March 2013 Indie Next List


“Vivien, who suffered an incredible loss in the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, helps others cope with their grief by making their lost loved ones come alive on the page. Claire, a young wife and mother in suburban Washington, D.C., who is caught up in the excitement of the 1960 Kennedy inauguration, wants 'more' but she's not quite sure 'more' of what. Theirs are compelling lives of love and loss, romance and friendship, marriage and motherhood, promises made and unreasonable hopes kept alive, and the mystery that is their connection. Literary mystery, love story, and historical fiction -- all beautifully told with expertly drawn characters make this one great novel!”
— Judy Crosby, Island Books, Middletown, RI

A sophisticated and suspenseful novel about the poignant lives of two women living in different eras.


On the day John F. Kennedy is inaugurated, Claire, an uncompromising young wife and mother obsessed with the glamour of Jackie O, struggles over the decision of whether to stay in a loveless marriage or follow the man she loves and whose baby she may be carrying. Decades earlier, in 1919, Vivien Lowe, an obituary writer, is searching for her lover who disappeared in the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. By telling the stories of the dead, Vivien not only helps others cope with their grief but also begins to understand the devastation of her own terrible loss. The surprising connection between Claire and Vivien will change the life of one of them in unexpected and extraordinary ways. Part literary mystery and part love story, The Obituary Writer examines expectations of marriage and love, the roles of wives and mothers, and the emotions of grief, regret, and hope.
Ann Hood is the author of eleven books, including the best-selling novels The Book That Matters Most and The Knitting Circle, and the memoirs Comfort: A Journey Through Grief and Kitchen Yarns: Notes on Life, Love, and Food. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island, and New York City.
Product Details ISBN: 9780393346770
ISBN-10: 0393346773
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: October 7th, 2013
Pages: 304
Language: English
The Obituary Writer is an engrossing book, drawing you in from page one. I admire this graceful and intimate writer for her literary sleight of hand: you don’t so much read about her characters as you inhabit them. Reading this book, I felt acutely the sadness of loss, the deliciousness of gossip among a group of women friends, the frustration of miscommunication in marriage, the joys of sensuality. Creating such empathy on the part of a reader isn’t easy: Ann Hood just makes it look that way. That’s a gift, and we readers are the lucky recipients.

— Elizabeth Berg author of The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted and Tapestry of Fortunes

It is a rare novelist who can summon the creative nerve to plumb the depths of grief, but that's just what Ann Hood does here with such compassion and grace. The Obituary Writer is an unflinching exploration of loss and the love that somehow remains, one that both wounds and heals. This is a deeply engaging and moving book.

— Andre Dubus III, author of Townie

In this poignant and incisive novel, Ann Hood brings history back to life in the most intimate way, chronicling the love affairs and heartbreaks of two very different women in two very different times. Moving gracefully and persuasively between post-earthquake San Francisco and the early 1960s, The Obituary Writer makes unexpected connections between these two bygone eras, and in the process, manages to illuminate the present as well as the past.

— Tom Perrotta, author of The Leftovers

Hood’s language is fine and supple, the settings are lusciously rendered, the melancholy air is seductive . . . and her intricate inquiry into grief, guilt and love is haunting.
— Booklist