Talking to the Dead, by Bonnie Grove (David C. Cook, 2009)
I’d expect most novels that start in the aftermath of a funeral to be dull. Not Talking to the Dead. Kate’s grief has left her numb, but it’s not boring-numb. It’s an odd detachment that has her seeing the world in a realistically-offbeat way.
In the first chapter, she reflects, “Funerals exist so we can close doors we’d rather leave open. But where did we get the idea that the best approach to facing death is to eat Bundt cake?” (p. 13)
Kate doesn’t pull me into a shared grief or depression, but she does draw me into her quirky observations of a world from which she’s been abruptly dislocated – and into her quest to get back.
Talking to the Dead is a compelling story of one woman’s struggle to find answers: What belongs in the holes in her memory? Who can help her deal with her grief? And why does her dead husband keep talking to her? (This isn’t a ghost story, by the way.)
As Kate’s world falls apart, readers feel we’re right there with her – except the book’s quirky humour keeps us sane. Kate runs from one type of help to another – books, counsellors, even a toxic preacher – in her search for wholeness. In the end, it’s friends and relationships, basic human kindness, along with Kate’s spiritual pilgrimage, that help her let go of the past and choose to step into a new future.
This is neither a philosophical book nor a slow read. Kate feels like a real person, and the pages practically turn themselves. Bonnie Grove’s writing flows fresh and lively, with splashes of humour and intriguing turns of phrase.
Look at these: “I … looked up into the early June sky. The clouds were an unmade bed.” (p. 15) Can’t you see it? And “Fatigue filled the small spaces between my bones.” (p. 17) At that point I stopped taking notes and settled in to enjoy the story.
Talking to the Dead isn’t a particularly happy story, although it’s not really sad either. It feels like a quest for truth. And the ending satisfies. If you like to read with an eye open for themes, check out Bonnie’s suggested things to look for in the novel.
Canadian author Bonnie Grove is also the author of Your Best You. Talking to the Dead is her first novel.
Bonnie’s tag line is “Life is messy. God is love.”
That sums it up, doesn’t it?
Canadian author Bonnie Grove has a background in psychology, counselling, and theology. She says, “I’m endlessly fascinated by grace. All my writing, short stories, novels, non-fiction – the whole shebang – are explorations of God’s grace at work in the world.” As well as Talking to the Dead, she is the author of Your Best You (non-fiction).