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The Obituary Writer

3.7  ·  Rating Details ·  11,159 Ratings  ·  1,655 Reviews
A sophisticated and suspenseful novel about the poignant lives of two women living in different eras.

On the day John F. Kennedy is inaugurated, Claire, a young wife and mother obsessed with the glamour of Jackie, struggles over the decision of whether to stay in a loveless but secure marriage or to follow the man she loves and whose baby she may be carrying. Decades earlie
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Hardcover, 294 pages
Published March 4th 2013 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 2013)
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Elizabeth Greene There were several mistakes in the book that the editors should have caught (someone who checked it out from the library before me noted them): twice…moreThere were several mistakes in the book that the editors should have caught (someone who checked it out from the library before me noted them): twice she uses "Vivien" when she meant "Claire," and once she says "hotel" instead of "hospital." Also, she refers to a "tennis bracelet." I'm sure the style has been around a long time, but the term didn't come into popularity until the 1970s when Chrissy Evert wore one on the tennis court. (less)
Meghan
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Community Reviews

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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Rating = 3.5 stars

Warning: Prescription credulity goggles may be required.
This is one of the most predictable novels I've ever read, and I do mean eye-rollingly predictable. So much so that I'm not even going to discuss plot and characters. Whatever is in the promotional blurb is all you need to know. But it was enjoyable, nonetheless. It moves swiftly enough that I finished it in less than 24 hours. I think many female readers will appreciate it for light reading that's not quite chick lit and
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☮Karen
There are two stories told which later become connected. Viviene the obit writer is in San Francisco and trying to find her lover still many years after the 1906 earthquake when he went missing. She has stumbled into the job of writing obits, making it an art. Such caring, lovely ... obituaries she'd written, all of them trying to capture grief, to show the world what had been lost. ... something you don't see much these days when reading obits. In writing, she dealt with her own grief, never k ...more
Britany
May 24, 2016 Britany rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
Alternating storylines between Vivian in 1919- who writes touching obituaries and Claire in 1961 who is fascinated with JFK and Jackie O. Earthquakes, lost loves, affairs, and tragedy make up this novel. I found the book interesting, but not overly memorable. Certain passages stood out and others sunk into the periphery. I found both female characters slightly weak and attribute this to the time period. It infuriated me that they stayed in unhappy relationships longing for someone/something more ...more
Dana
May 01, 2013 Dana rated it really liked it
Good book/Bad book: "The Obituary Writer," by Ann Hood. Hood is one of my favorite writers, and has been for decades. A few years ago she lost her beautiful 5 yr. old daughter to a sudden & fierce virus or infection. Since them, her work has reflected loss, mourning and grief....themes of death. I loved "The Red Thread," about the adoption of little girls from China. Clearly I am biased in that regard, with my own 2 Chinese daughters. I can't rave about "The Obituary Writer," the way I did a ...more
Connie
This was an enjoyable read as it followed the story of two women, Vivienne and Claire, one in 1919 and one in 1961. Both women struggled with a lost love which seemed to define who they were, or at least how they saw themselves and lived their lives.

I found it interesting that of the two women it was Vivienne in the early 1900's era who was the more "modern woman" to me. She had a "lover" and lived her life as a single independent women who did not seem to care what others thought. Her story w
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Mary
May 23, 2013 Mary rated it it was ok
Shelves: chick-lit
I wanted to like this better, but I just couldn't bring myself to care about either Vivien--a woman whose life essentially stopped in 1906 when her married lover disappeared during an earthquake--and Claire, a bland 1960s suburban housewife who inexplicably has an affair. Both women, in fact, seemed oddly passionless and utterly conventional, yet they dropped trou for total strangers without a care in the world. Claire's big thing with Miles was that he listened to her but I never heard her thin ...more
Larry H
Mar 31, 2013 Larry H rated it really liked it
In 1960, Claire is the perfect suburban housewife—she knows how to have the perfect drink ready for her husband when he comes home from work, she is up on her current events, caters to her husband's every need, and she realizes how lucky she is to have married a true provider, ensuring a good future for her family. But a crisis in their neighborhood leaves Claire out-of-sorts, and leads her into the arms of another man. As the world readies for John F. Kennedy's inauguration as president, she fi ...more
Beth Van Fossen
Mar 30, 2013 Beth Van Fossen rated it it was ok
I REALLY wanted to love this book and there were moments when I did; Ann Hood's writing is gorgeous in places. But the plot was very thin and the book felt stretched to make it almost 300 pages - the books itself is small and there is a lot of white space on each page. I'm not sure how old Ms. Hood is but she clearly wasn't comfortable with the 1960's era, she spent so much time describing things in Claire's home (the artwork, the wallpaper, etc.) and other things from the contemporary culture, ...more
Jessica
Apr 22, 2017 Jessica rated it really liked it
Shelves: bb-club-reads
First timer reading Ann Hood. I will definitely check out a few of her other books.

What's It About:

Two women separated by decades find their stories are more closely aligned than either could possibly realize.
1919:Vivien Lowe is a sought after obituary writer. She is mourning the loss of her lover in the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. She refuses to believe he is dead and clings to hope there will be a reunion between the two. Her friend, Lottie, worries about Vivien's future and there is a
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Audrey
Jul 30, 2013 Audrey rated it really liked it
I could be painfully critical, and I could do so by expressing my annoyance when I was bombarded with typos, grammatical errors, and a misplaced name, but I don't want to be. The responsibility of perfection had fallen onto the shoulders of the editor; the writer herself is the only one who's worth reviewing here. Take away everything that was beyond her control, put instead the lime light on her manuscript, which displayed more emotion and character than I had anticipated before starting this n ...more
Marla
Aug 29, 2014 Marla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
This is a very beautifully written book about Claire in 1961 struggling with having an affair and not really loving her husband, and being pregnant with possibly her lover's baby. And Vivien around 1914 who writes obituaries for people and is struggling with not knowing what happened to her lover David in the earthquake. This book covers so many different emotions and pulls the reader into both women's lives.

I listened to this as an audiobook and when the book switched between the two women it w
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B the BookAddict
Jul 06, 2013 B the BookAddict rated it liked it
Recommended to B the BookAddict by: Goodreads

As you would imagine from the title, the subject of grief features quite strongly in this novel set in 1919 and 1961. But it is also about choices, being trapped by your circumstances and almost being an unwilling participant in your own life. Two women's stories which, for me, link far too late in the storyline to really have much in common; almost like two short stories with their chapters interspersing. There is a quite from Emily Post at each chapter, some lovely poetry quoted and the author
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Darlene
Nov 02, 2016 Darlene rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
I have been reading many wonderful reviews written by friends over the course of this year with a twinge of envy. I have been in a bit of a reading slump this year… starting but never finishing newly released books which seemed so promising but turned out to be uninspiring to me. On the positive side, I have taken the opportunity to re-read some old favorites by some authors that I particularly enjoy. That is the case with 'The Obituary Writer' written by Ann Hood. I listened to this book and th ...more
Lori
Mar 11, 2013 Lori rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites, audiobook
All obituaries should be written in this manner!! When a person dies, it's not about the dates and places but rather about who that person was to the people they have left behind. A beautifully written story about life. And, the ending was perfect!!!!
Diane Yannick
Aug 01, 2013 Diane Yannick rated it really liked it
This book was an engrossing read. There wasn't anything that I needed to highlight. There are no burning questions that deserve further discussion. It was just a good old fashioned read.

The stories took place in post earthquake San Francisco and the early 1960's. I found the characters interesting and the final meshing of their lives satisfying. Having witnessed the obsession with the Kennedys first hand, I found those details realistic. There were a few too many attempts to set the decade---Ri
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Holly
Sep 23, 2013 Holly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
I started this thinking I would only read a few chapters then go to bed. Didn't quite work out that way. Instead I stayed up till the wee hours of the morning reading this book. I honestly don't know what to say about this except that I found it strangely compelling.
Barb
Jan 28, 2013 Barb rated it really liked it
'The Obituary Writer' tells the story of two women living in very different times. In 1960, Claire is struggling to figure out her marriage, not sure if she still loves her husband, she's been having an affair and knows there's a very good chance the baby she's carrying is the other man's. In 1919 Vivian is searching for her lover David, who she hasn't seen since he left for work the morning of April 18, 1906, the day an earthquake devastated the city of San Francisco.

These characters really ca
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Elyse
Feb 01, 2013 Elyse rated it it was amazing
I've been thinking about this book for a day since finishing it. Tea & toast comforts my 'own' thinking about this story.
So....I try to write a review: (hoping to do this book justice)

Its intensely personal (being a fiction novel). NOT ORDINARY! I think its a rare book --a book which grows richer -inside you --as the days pass after reading it.

Many topics are covered: relationships-love-death-sex-loss-grief-morality-adultry-friendship-JFK, The 1906 S.F. earthquake, etc.

Interesting 'craftin
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Mary
I couldn’t look past the glaring errors in this book in order to enjoy it, was there an editor for this book? If so they were asleep.

More than once the author refers to the character by the wrong name, in chapter 7 when the character Connie is talking to the protagonist Claire and the line reads “Vivien admitted she wasn’t sure.”

There are also several very obvious anachronisms, the character Vivien is reading about Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in 1919 despite the term not coming into use unti
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B J
Jun 01, 2016 B J rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My library had to borrow this book from another library. This seems so wrong and I plan to let them know, perhaps they will obtain a copy.

The story is about grief but so much more. Two stories in one about two different women, Vivian and Claire a generation apart. They both tell their stories about the people they have loved, lost and moving forward. About half way through the book their story meshes more into one story. Ironically it also shares the roles of women two generations apart, but p
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Diane S ☔
Jun 15, 2012 Diane S ☔ rated it liked it
Although the progress of this novel's plot was fairly predictable it was also spot on in tone and setting. The book takes place both during and after the San Francisco earthquake with one woman's story and than alternates with Claire's story during the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy. What sets this novel apart is that each chapter is headed by a quote from Emily Post on how to handle bereavement and the fact that Vivian is an obituary writer, not for a newspaper, but people come to he ...more
Amy
Feb 28, 2013 Amy rated it really liked it
Shelves: press-copy
Ann Hood authored Comfort, one of the most poignant, honest memoirs I’ve read. It detailed the grieving process after her 5-year-old daughter died from a virulent form of strep throat. Once I started reading The Obituary Writer I recognized elements of Comfort within the pages of this captivating, melancholy novel.

Two things immediately attracted me to this novel: the title and the cover. arguably in book publishing, besides social networking, these are important elements for marketing. A simpl
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Denise
Apr 14, 2015 Denise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book tells the story of two different women in two different time periods, one in the early 1960's (Claire) and the other at the turn of the century (Vivian). Vivian has lost her lover in the San Francisco earthquake and falls into the job of obituary writer. Claire is dealing with an unhappy marriage and questioning her role as a woman in 1961. Claire and her friends are fascinated by Jacqueline Kennedy and the inauguration.
It was well written and paints a very detailed picture of both th
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Lorri Steinbacher
Mar 01, 2013 Lorri Steinbacher rated it really liked it
Thought it was excellent, but felt the end was rushed, almost tacked on. Hood wove the Claire's and Vivien's stories together beautifully. I will say this: W.W. Norton should fire someone on their copyreading staff because in at least three places, Vivien's name was used when the author was talking about Claire. Just nitpicky of me but when you are alternating between stories, that kind of thing can take you out of the story pretty abruptly.

Mari
Dec 06, 2013 Mari rated it it was amazing
Hood's latest features elegant prose and an especially artfully constructed ending. This "quiet" novel about two women of different generations tackles big themes: the age old moral questions of affairs, the nature of grief and loss, and the (nearly subversive to our culture that prizes optimism) bold theme that sometimes, the only way to move forward could be to give up hope.
Linda
Mar 23, 2013 Linda rated it liked it
I really wanted to love this book, but I just could not. I am really not sure why I am giving it three stars. I suppose because it is better than two stars, if I only had the option of making it a two and one half. First of all there were several editing failures that were so glaring, I can't for the life of me figure out why a proof reader did not catch them. There was Claire, her story was taking place at the time of the JFK campaigning and inauguration, then there was Vivian whose story takes ...more
Mary Kubica
Apr 05, 2014 Mary Kubica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful and mesmerizing. I could not put this down. I didn't read this book as much as I occupied Claire and Vivien's worlds. Be sure to have tissues handy throughout, as you will find yourself in tears many, many times. Just an amazing novel. Looking forward to reading anything and everything by Ann Hood.
smetchie
Don't you just love it when everyone is rich? Me too.

There's too much death in this book. I suppose the title should have tipped me off.
Literary Vixens
May 06, 2013 Literary Vixens rated it really liked it
“Grief is a strange thing. There isn’t an again. Not really. It’s always there, always present. Again implies it can end and then start up anew. But it never goes away in the first place.”

The Obituary Writer is romantic, tragic and insightful in its’ portrayal of two independent thinking women from two different eras who meet in a most coincidental way. Ann Hood has written a poignant story that tackles weighty topics including love, marriage, motherhood, grief and loss with depth, clarity and h
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Pam
Jun 11, 2013 Pam rated it it was amazing
Unfortunately I waited a few weeks after reading The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood, to write this review. I hate when I do that, especially when it is a book I loved as much as I did this one. I wish I had stopped right after reading it, when I felt that glow of satisfaction. Instead I have already read two more books and the memory has faded some.

The main characters of the book are Vivien Lowe, who finds her calling as an obituary writer to help her overcome the grief of losing her lover David i
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Play Book Tag: The Obituary Writer - Ann Hood - 2 stars 2 10 Aug 05, 2016 08:35AM  
Ellet Branch Libr...: Opening Thoughts 2 15 Oct 07, 2015 10:38AM  
The quote for your obit 3 29 Sep 01, 2014 03:41PM  
What did Claire decide to do? 7 89 Sep 01, 2014 03:37PM  
Hamburg Book Club: The Larkin Square Author Series 4 19 Feb 19, 2014 07:01AM  
Goodreads Choice ...: Audible Deal of the Day 9 57 Nov 19, 2013 08:26PM  
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Ann Hood is the editor of Knitting Yarns: Writers on Knitting and the bestselling author of The Book That Matters Most, The Knitting Circle, The Red Thread, Comfort, and An Italian Wife, among other works. She is the recipient of two Pushcart Prizes, a Best American Spiritual Writing Award, a Best American Food Writing Award, a Best American Travel Writing Award, and the Paul Bowles Prize for Shor ...more
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“She understood that grief is not neat and orderly; it does not follow any rules. Time does not heal it. Rather time insists on passing and as it does, grief changes but does not go away.” 12 likes
“This was how to help a family who has just lost their child. Wash the clothes, make soup. Don't ask them what they need, bring them what they need. Keep them warm. Listen to them rant, and cry, and tell their story over and over.” 10 likes
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