The Undertaker’s Daughter by Kate Mayfield

My Rating:
The Undertaker's Daughter by Kate Mayfield
The Undertaker’s Daughter by Kate Mayfield

The Undertaker’s Daughter is the true story of Kate Mayfield’s unusual childhood. The first 13 years of her life, she lived in a funeral home in a small town in the South of Kentucky. Frank, her father, was an undertaker, and death was a big part of their lives. When a body was brought to the funeral home, the kids were not supposed to make any noise, so there was no talking, singing, arguing or running in the house for a few days. Kate was introduced to death at a young age, but she tried to live as normal a life as she could.

The Undertaker’s Daughter has many colorful characters, and the story is really compelling. At the end of certain chapters, the author writes a few paragraphs, called “In Memoriam”, where she talks about the death of a particular person because she knew the deceased, or because the circumstances were unusual. I found this to be a nice touch, and a great way to remember these people. Moreover, the book deals with serious subjects. As the story takes place in the 1960s, segregation was very much present with a marked separation between colour and classes. Jubilee, the small town where Kate lived, was a God-fearing place, and the consumption of alcohol was still considered a crime. The book also deals with mental illness, as Kate’s older sister was later diagnosed with severe bipolar disorder.  Of course, I also loved the literary references to Charles Dickens and Edgar Allan Poe. However, I found that sometimes it was hard to tell Kate’s age as there was no way of keeping track of the passage of time, and I would have liked to know at what stage of her childhood she was when some things happened. In addition, I would have loved to know more about the presence Kate sometimes felt when a body was laid out in the funeral home’s chapel. She only goes over this briefly. Overall though, this was an interesting and thought-provoking read, and I highly recommend it.

The Undertaker’s Daughter was sent to me for free in exchange for an honest review.

Fun facts about the author and the book:

  • Kate Mayfield also co-wrote two books with Malcolm Levene: 10 Steps to Fashion Freedom and Ellie Hart Goes to Work.
  • Cremation was not performed in the 1960s in Kentucky. All dead were buried in a cemetery.
  • The author now lives in London with her British husband. They don’t have any children.
  • Miss Agnes, the wealthy old lady who became Frank’s friend and advocate, only dressed in red.

About the author and her work: Kate Mayfield’s Website.

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Written by Cecile

Cécile Sune was born in Lyon, France, and her obsession with books started when she was 14. Her grandparents had lent her Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, and she spent part of the summer indoors reading. Needless to say, her tan didn't really improve that year! It was also around that time that Cécile fell in love with the English language. Several years later, in 1999, Cécile moved to Toronto, Canada, with her cat and 5 suitcases. Her love of reading greatly increased when she discovered that English books were much cheaper than French novels. In 2013, she decided to start a blog to share her passion. Cécile now lives in Ottawa, Canada, with her husband and their daughter, and works as a freelance translator (CS Revision).