While browsing books on NetGalley, Kate Mayfield's memoir, The Undertaker's Daughter caught my eye. Thank you to Gallery Books for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
PLOT - Kate Mayfield grew up as the daughter of an undertaker. Her father, Frank, moved his family to the small town of Jubilee, Kentucky when Mayfield was a young child. It was hard enough to make new friends in this tight-knit community, but it was even harder when your family lives in a funeral home. To make matters more difficult, Mayfield defied the 1960's mores of Jubilee, by secretly dating African-American boys in her recently desegregated school.
Throughout her memoir, Mayfield weaves in stories of fellow Jubilee citizens that came through their family funeral home, including an eccentric town recluse, who in life, developed a close bond with Frank. Mayfield spends much of her memoir examining the dynamics of her family, which include her father and older sister's erratic behavior and violent outbursts.
LIKE - There were so many elements that I enjoyed in The Undertaker's Daughter. Foremost, Mayfield is a likable protagonist. I liked that she was a bit different from the other people in her community and that although she struggles with this, it also clearly shapes her into the adult that is able to write this memoir with a strong sense of perspective. I enjoyed a glimpse into what it would be like to live in a funeral home. Mayfield is never disrespectful or exploitive, but she does retell some fascinating stories about issues that arise in the funeral business.
Although she speaks much of death and funerals, this memoir is really about her and her family. There is a fair bit of dysfunction that is hidden beneath the surface of this well-mannered southern family. Her father is an alcoholic who is repeatedly unfaithful to Mayfield's mother, a woman who fights for her husband in spite of his faults. Mayfield's oldest sister, Evelyn, is dangerous and will not be diagnosed or treated for bipolar disorder until she is middle-aged, long after she has become estranged from Mayfield.
On a personal note, the end of the memoir has the Mayfield's dealing with a court case involving an inheritance. A similar issue happened in my family and this entire section gave me knots in my stomach. I could relate and I just felt terrible about the injustice and fell on the Mayfield family.
DISLIKE - There was nothing to dislike. Mayfield is a wonderful writer and she has a fascinating life to tell. The story ends with her as an adult in London, so I'm hoping that she will have another memoir to continue her adventures. I'd definitely read more!
RECOMMEND - Absolutely! This memoir will reach a lot of people for various reasons- those interested in life in the 60's, people interested in what it would be like to live in a funeral home, people with dysfunctional families, et...there is a lot going on in The Undertaker's Daughter and it's good stuff!