Review: The Undertaker’s Daughter by Kate Mayfield


Title: The Undertaker’s Daughter

Author: Kate Mayfield

Published: Gallery Books Jan 2015

Status: Read from January 12 to 15, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

The Undertaker’s Daughter is a memoir by Kate Mayfield whose family owned and operated a funeral home in Jubilee, a small town on the border of Kentucky and Tennessee, from the 1960’s to the late 1970’s.

Kate and her family, her parents Lily and Frank and siblings Thomas, Evelyn and Jemma, lived above the business, housed on the ground floor of their home. As a young child Kate had the run of the place, though she was required to tiptoe around their quarters when a body was in residence. In the first few chapters, she shares her charming curiosity about the deceased that passed through the home, uncomplicated by a fear of death and social disapproval.

As Kate grows up, the memoir’s focus shifts to the town and her family, though the undertaking business remains relevant. She details the small town politics the family had to contend with, the often eccentric townspeople, and touches on the issues of segregation and desegregation, through her friendship with the family’s housekeeper, Belle, and her own clandestine relationships with two African American boys as a teen. With regards to her family, Kate reveals her sister’s mental illness but is especially focused on her relationship with her father, a complicated man she worshiped as a child, but who lost some of his lustre when Kate eventually learned of the secrets he kept as a serial adulterer and secret drinker.

Well written, The Undertaker’s Daughter is a charming and poignant memoir exploring one woman’s experience of life and death in a small southern town.

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Review: Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas


Title: Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight

Author: M.E. Thomas

Published: PanMacmillan June 2013

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from June 06 to 07, 2013 — I own a copy{Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

I was intrigued by the idea of this memoir as abnormal psychology is an odd interest of mine.

M.E. Thomas is a pseudonym for a woman who claims to be a successful law professor, a devout follower of the Mormon faith and a diagnosed sociopath. This memoir is an attempt to dispel the popular myth that sociopaths are all irredeemable, violent, conscienceless criminals. Though Thomas admits to a distorted way of relating to people she manages, with varying degrees of success, to curb her natural impulses and instead has become a productive member of society.

If there is a continuum that measures the degree of sociopathy, Thomas could be said to display the milder symptoms of the disorder. Self interest is her driving force, and the lack of regard for the damage that causes others doesn’t really concern her. Thomas tries to explain the way in which she processes and experiences feelings, stating in essence, that her response to emotion, either her own or someone else’s, is blunted. Reason and logic have more meaning for her than qualitative concepts like guilt, shame or love. And though she has, over time, learnt to imitate socially appropriate responses and behaviour, it is not instinctual for her.

The precursor to this memoir is a blog the author started in an attempt to both connect with other people like her and inform those who have a sociopath in their life. A quick browse of shows it is a bit of a hot mess, trolled by wannabee psycho’s and weirdo’s, but Thomas’s posts are interesting and consistent with what is included in the memoir.

It is sensible to doubt the validity of Thomas’s perspective entirely, as a self confessed sociopath she has an innate motivation to present herself in the best light possible. However, I found this memoir fascinating and, at face value, an insightful glimpse into the inner world of someone very different from me.

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Review: Love with a Chance of Drowning by Torre DeRoche

Title: Love with a Chance of Drowning

Author: Torre DeRoche

Published: Penguin Viking February 2013

Status: Read on February 19, 2013 — I own a copy {Courtesy Penguin Australia}

Read an excerpt

My Thoughts:

“Some people die of old age without ever having lived their dreams. Some people die without ever having loved. That’s tragic. We’ll both die someday, that’s a guarantee. If something happens on the ocean, we’ll die as two people in love who are living a remarkable adventure…”

Torre DeRoche planned to spend a year in the US working and then return home to Australia. Instead she fell in love with an Argentinian and despite a fear of the sea, agreed to sail with him across the Pacific. Love With a Chance of Drowning tells of Torre’s adventures aboard the Amazing Grace during her journey to conquer the ocean, and her fears.

Torre wasn’t looking for a relationship when she met Ivan in a San Francisco bar but charmed by his Latin good looks and kind, considerate nature she fell head over in heels in love. Yet their separation seemed inevitable, Torre had promised to return to Australia at the end of the year and Ivan planned to throw in his IT job and sail solo across the ocean. As the end began to draw near, Ivan suggested Torre join him and she was faced with a difficult choice, sail away with her lover or say goodbye. Despite her fear of deep water, disaster and ““anything that would fall out if you turned the ocean upside down and shook it” Torre’s decides to surrender her comfortable city lifestyle for a love on a 32ft wooden boat in the middle of nowhere.

Though I have little interest in sailing (and my own fearful respect for the sea), I really enjoyed this entertaining memoir of (mis)adventure. The humour is engaging, Torre has no problem poking fun at her own obsession with safety equipment, her horrendous bouts of sea sickness and Ivan’s innate clumsiness. She is boldly honest about the journey’s practical and emotional hardships – broken equipment, rough weather, the lack of fresh food and inescapable intimacy. Yet as Torre describes the joy of watching dolphins frolic in the boat’s wake, the stunning white sands and blue water of tropical waters and the convivial welcome of islanders, you can’t help but wish you could join her.

Love with a Chance of Drowning is wonderfully written. Part travelogue, part romance, it is a tale of an amazing journey that will sweep you away.

Available To Purchase

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Available for Preorder in the US

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