About My Book Reviews

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Driving with Dead People by Monica Halloway

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Title: Driving with Dead People

Author: Monica Halloway

Published: 2007

Genre: Memoir

Grade Level: Adult

-Trigger Warning: Suicidal thoughts, domestic violence, child abuse, and grief

-Movie Rating: R

Blurb (from goodreads):

Small wonder that, at nine years old, Monica Holloway develops a fascination with the local funeral home. In spite of her father's bouts of violence and abuse, her mother's selfishness and prim denial, and her siblings' personal battles and betrayals, Monica never succumbs to despair. Instead, she forges her own way, thriving at school and becoming fast friends with Julie Kilner, whose father is the town mortician.

In time, Monica and Julie get a job driving the company hearse to pick up bodies at the airport, yet even Monica's growing independence can't protect her from her parents' irresponsibility, and from the feeling that she simply does not deserve to be safe. Little does she know, as she finally strikes out on her own, that her parents' biggest betrayal has yet to be revealed.

"Driving with Dead People" is an extraordinary real-life tale with a wonderfully observant and resourceful heroine.

Disclaimer: My review of this memoir is not in any way a reflection upon the author or their life. I am a book reviewer, I review books… not people.

My Scores:

Writing Style: Sparse

Memoirs are a strange thing to read. If you read as many as I do, you’ll find that most of them are not written well, but that’s not a good enough reason to stop reading them. If you had to write down your life, I’m sure it would end up much the same way, a rather jumbled mess. There’s a lot to life and it’s hard to write it down in a way that flows together. 

That said, just be warned ahead of time that there’s a real lack of transitions in this book. In case you read the first page and became afraid of what the rest of the book is like, just know that the writing towards the end of the book is way better than the beginning.

The writing, though sparse, is very open, honest, and raw. I don’t know where she found the courage to be so honest with the world, but I can certainly appreciate it.

Characters: Memorable
(I known they're real people. I’m referring to them as character’s anyway.)

Everyone in this book is deeply flawed, and they don’t always make the choices that you would expect them to make. Which, when compared to a contemporary fiction book, makes characters seem less believable. It’s quite a strange fact about us humans that we expect characters to make logical choices, except that we humans almost never do…

As for myself, I am glad to know that someone else’s family is just as messed up as mine. I can relate to the problems the MC faces on a very intimate level, (although I would hope not everyone could). 

Our MC, Monica Holloway, is fascinated with death at a very early age. She meets her best friend, Julie Kilner, because Julie’s father owns the town mortuary. Through that relationship they get a job driving the hearse. If you are a fan or dark and morbid humor, which I most definitely am, you’ll enjoy this book.

It becomes very clear early on that her home life is awful. Her father is very violent and sadistic. Herself and her siblings each choose a different way to handle the trauma he created in their childhood. It is fascinating and heart-breaking to me to see how the trauma affects each of them as they grew older. 

Despite all of her mistakes, I still cared deeply for the MC. I found myself yelling at her and lecturing her a quite a bit, but I tried to remain calm. I also couldn’t believe her level of understanding towards her parents.

Plot: Absolute Page Turner

I was not expecting there to be a big epic twist at the end! It’s a memoir after all, not a thriller. But believe me, there is a twist, and for me it came out of nowhere. I’m so used to memoirs ending on a weird coast until it just fizzles out, so this was truly shocking.

Overall: Obsessed

Overall, I’m obsessed with this book! I love how it represents how trauma affects all of us in different ways, and how we can strive to overcome it. I love how the writing is candid and raw. I love how the MC was quirky, thoughtful, and deliciously dark.

It does have some very disturbing content, and you should know that going in, but I truly think it’s an experience worth reading about.

“I’ll always be damaged in a way. I had hoped that I could completely heal those cracks, but I’m starting to think that real trick is learning to live a full life in spite of them.”

Goodreads Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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