What if the place you called ‘home’ happened to be a funeral home? Kate Mayfield explores what it meant to be the daughter of a small-town undertaker in this fascinating memoir evocative of Six Feet Under and The Help, with a hint of Mary Roach’s Stiff.
I’ve said it before, I don’t generally read non-fiction. Out of the 60 odd books I’ve read this year, I think might only be my second non-fiction book. I was persuaded to read this for my bookclub, demonstrating for me the benefit of a bookclub as I never would have picked this up otherwise.
This is they story of Kate Mayfield, who grew up in a small town in America’s south during the 1960’s as the daughter of an undertaker. The various blurb’s I’ve seen for this book reference Six Feet Under, My Girl, The Help and To Kill a Mockingbird. I can understand why. They are the cultural reference points for storys about undertakers, or life in America’s south prior to the Civil Rights movement. However for me the fact Kate Mayfields father was an undertaker or that she is living through a tumultuous period in America’s history are sidenotes to the real story. For me this is a book about a family, struggling with many aspects of life, and the host of interesting characters to enter their life. It is a book of discovery, about coming to the realisation that our parents are not perfect….they are fallible…they are human.
Like may biographical books, it is a book in which little outside the normal run of life happens. People are born, people die, people fight and people make up. Yet is a compelling read. Mayfield’s style draws us in. She is funny and touching in equal measure. This is a strong contender for one of my favourite books of the year.