Saturday, May 2, 2009

Annie Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral by Kris Radish

Summary: Radish's latest overwrought book tracks five strangers– turned–soul mates over the course of the titular funeral, posthumously organized by their friend Annie, who died from ovarian cancer at age 56. A package arrives at Katherine Givens's front door and in it are the ashes of her free-spirited, altruistic childhood friend, along with instructions for a procession that will take Annie's closest friends on a cross country trip from Sonoma, Calif., to Manhattan, sprinkling her remains as they go. Just nine days later, Annie's former university colleague Jill, women's crisis savior Laura, cantankerous neighbor Rebecca and her hospice aide Marie join Katherine on the journey during which they learn their eccentric friend's deepest secrets and share many of their own. Most importantly, these unorthodox urnbearers understand the greatness Annie saw in them and attain the courage to act on it. Windswept melodrama marks Radish's prose (e.g. "these moments were the ones Marie needed to keep the tears and gashes in her own soul from washing her out to sea"), but that will not deter readers who relish the idea of women forming bonds when their mettle is tested and finding power and self-actualization in grief, sharing and love. By Publishers Weekly via

My Review: Read the above summary carefully. I think the reviewer at least partially shared my opinion of the book. The key words are "overwrought" and "windswept melodrama." I also don't think it is flattering to have the phrase "but that will not deter..." in a summary. I think these are nice ways to say what I was thinking while I attempted to read this book. After gagging my way through the first half of the book I simply had enough and it became the third book in as many months that I simply could not bare to finish (see review of City of Falling Angels).

In general - I was put off by the over-emotive thoughts of the women and the "coincidence" that they were all at some sort of cross-roads of life, and despite being cast as intelligent, interesting women couldn't figure out how to get themselves beyond the rut they were existing in. I didn't buy the witty banter that attempted to be so telling of their unique personalities - so unique I couldn't remember which name went to which character, or who was saying what. I was beyond irritated by the absurd overuse of similes that made the prose seem practically gummy with description and comparison.

I love a good "girls rule" book as much as the next person but I think I was insulted by the cliche and improbable relationship these women had. The author was obviously trying to create a warm (dare I say womb-like) reality for the setting of this journey but in doing so stifled the true and terribly interesting nature of a "real" woman and her characters became messy, blobby things instead of interesting, striking women.

And a very small aside - regarding a short section where the author talks about a doctor whose "internal" examination is gentle and kind in a way only a female can be. Uh, so not true! Although I've had good (unpainful) and bad (OUCH) exams from doctors of both genders, the male doctors always apologize when I start squirming around from the pain, whereas it is inevitably the female doctors who say things like "You've already had a baby haven't you?" or "Its a good thing you can get an epidural" in a tone of voice that means "Suck it up, sister and take it like a man". Not that I'm bitter...

My Rating: 1 star
Caveat: I sat in on the book club discussion of this book prior to reading it and nothing said by the 7 women who'd read it would have let me know I'd hate it so much, in fact it influenced one woman to begin the adoption process.

In One Sentence: I wonder if some of the conversations I try to have with my husbands make him react like I did to this book ("Why is she STILL talking about this touchy feely nonsense, didn't she already say that, who cares")...if so, he'd be wise to keep his trap shut!


Anonymous said...

I read a little of this book hoping for something relevant to my upcoming trip with three women I spent my late twenties and early thirties with, one of us dying.

What I read was trite, poorly written (started in first person present/past present, ugh) and, in my eyes, unworthy of what a book about this subject could have been.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with the comments made and found them very well articulated. I was insulted by the time of the book and couldn't get past the first chapter without holding my nose.


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