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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