Just prior to reading Kate Mayfield's memoir, The Undertaker's Daughter, I came across Dee Oliver's memoir, The Undertaker's Wife. I liked the symmetry! Thank You to Zondervan for the advance copy of Oliver's memoir in exchange for an honest review.
PLOT - Dee Oliver grew up in a wealthy environment, living in a beach front home in Virginia. After graduating from a private college, she lived at home, struggling to figure out both a career path and her love life.
In the 1980's Dee met her future husband-to-be, Johnnie, when he contacts her after she catches his eye during a funeral. Johnnie is a fourth generation funeral director and his profession shapes their entire relationship, starting on the first date when he needs to leave a restaurant to pick up a body, bringing Dee along.
The pair soon married and Dee found her life shift, as she became the mother to three daughters and helped out at the funeral home. When Johnnie unexpectedly dies of a heart attack in his early fifties, Dee is left not only mourning her husband, but trying to figure out a new direction for her life. She decides to go back to school and get her funeral director's license, expecting to find a job at her husband's funeral home, which is being run by her brother-in-law. When it comes time to fulfill her internship hours, she is shocked when her brother-in-law refuses to let her work for him. Dee finds that the only funeral director willing to help her out, is a man named Riddick, who runs the only African-American funeral home in town. The funeral business in America is still unofficially segregated and Dee's acceptance of the internship is a shock to both the white and black communities in Virginia Beach.
LIKE - The biggest reason to read The Undertaker's Wife is Dee Oliver. She is such an inspiration and a strong woman. She's plucky and someone who doesn't give up, even though she is repeatedly told no or turned down. More over, she is an inspiration for people who need to face major life changes, especially mid-life.
Oliver is frequently funny, lightening the mood even when writing about her husband's death. She dispenses good advice towards pre-planning your own funeral and on the grieving process, both for someone who is in mourning, but also towards those who are interacting with people who have recently suffered a loss. It's gleaned from her personal experiences, but also from all of the people that she has helped in the funeral business.
I was amazed by the segregation that exists in the funeral business, both with race and religion. This aspect added another layer to the memoir.
DISLIKE - This is a memoir, so Oliver is speaking from her heart and through her experiences, but there is a heavy bent on her experiences as a Christian. This is totally fine and she says nothing that I found particularly offensive ( although there is talk of Christians going to heaven and a segment where an atheist is pushed to believe in something), the main issue that I had was it is limited in scope. There is little mention of other religions and there would have been ample opportunity, especially with theme of segregation. There is enough references to Christianity, that I think that this book will likely be placed both in a "Memoir" and a "Christian" section in bookstores and it will likely be available at Christian bookstores.
RECOMMEND - Yes. The Undertaker's Wife is a wonderful book for people needing a little inspiration to make a life change or those who are grieving. It's also just a good "life lesson" book. It made me think seriously about my own need to do estate planning. Life is short.