Sunday, May 12, 2013

We'll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down, by Rachael Hanel

Growing up the daughter of a gravedigger, Rachael was surrounded by death.  She literally grew up in cemeteries  to her, it was normal to ride her bike among the graves, help remove old flowers, and see the people's lives memorialized in granite.  As she gets older, she starts to become curious about the stories of the people in those graves, trying to process the impact their deaths have caused.  When her own father dies, Rachael is shocked at how unprepared she was to deal with death on a personal level.

I was instantly drawn to this book.  As a child, I too spent a lot of time playing in our local cemetery.  My grandmother had a lot of family members buried there, and it was the original site of our parish's church, so we often spent time in the cemetery talking about the history of our family and town.  As a result, death was not ever anything that scared me, cemeteries were never creepy.  To this day, I am fascinated by the history and tales contained in graveyards.

Much like Rachael, that early exposure did nothing to prepare me for the impact of the death of people I know and loved.  In fact, it is now, as an adult, that I find myself frightened by death.  Because of this, I was really able to connect, on  a deep level, to Rachael.  When she recounted her father's death, my heart broke for her.  And I must admit, I was quite surprised at the impact it had on her family; clearly he was the linchpin holding them all together.

The writing in this book is incredibly honest.  Some readers might find it a bit maudlin, but I just found it to be genuine.  Rachael had a unique experience growing up the daughter of a gravedigger, so it only seemed to make sense, to me, that her story be equally unique.  Fans of memoirs will certainly be interested in this book, as would anyone involved or connected to the mortuary business.  And it certainly will hit home with anyone who ever rode a bike or flew a kite or had a picnic in a cemetery.

I received a review copy courtesy of NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.




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