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The Gravedigger

3.83  ·  Rating Details ·  242 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
"Reminiscent of the work of Luis Alberto Urrea and Gabriel Garcia Marquez" (Booklist), this enchanting first novel, now in paperback, was an Original Voices feature at Borders and a Discover Great New Writers selection at Barnes & Noble. Juan Rodrigo, a gravedigger in a small Andalusian village, hears the voices of the dead and tells their stories to the living, a job ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published April 19th 2007 by Chronicle Books (first published 2006)
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Janna Santoro
Jan 12, 2008 Janna Santoro rated it really liked it
Peter Grandbois was my mentor this year as I finished my masters in English with an emphasis in creative writing. It's almost on the fanciful side of storytelling/fairy tale, but what I loved is how he plays with the idea of truth in stories and how there are different versions of the same story. Storytelling is definitely a pervading theme -- how stories affect individuals and a larger community. One criticism, however, is that the father-daughter relationship of Juan and Esperanza seems rather ...more
Mar 19, 2012 Marnie rated it it was amazing
A truly charming gem of a book! Refreshing story of simple lives in a small village in Andalucia, Spain. But profound in the understanding of how close life and death exist. The reader must appreciate and trust the existance of Life in a different realm. I love the Latin/Spanish language and thinking as well the willings to allow the spiritual life to flourish. A wonderful read!
Robin Davis
Jun 28, 2012 Robin Davis rated it it was amazing
The Gravedigger, a first novel by Peter Grandbois, will leave you thinking long after you turn the last page. If you are a person who values thinking, then you will enjoy absorbing the story of Juan Rodrigo, a widower gravedigger in a small village in Spain, as he digs the last grave he will ever dig – for his young daughter. Juan Rodrigo is not like you and me, for Juan hears the voices of the dead. His service to the people of his village is not only to dig their graves, but also to tell the s ...more
Sherry (sethurner)
Oct 30, 2008 Sherry (sethurner) rated it really liked it
"High in the Sierra De La Contraviesa, southeast of the gypsy caves of Granada, a small, whitewashed village, indistinguishable from any other in Andalucia, hangs precipitously fromo a cliff, overlooking on one side of the valley below and the Rio Yator that waters the valley, and on the other the wild olive and poplars, which cover the hills, rolling gently down to the sea."

The opening sentence of Peter Grandbois' debut novel sets the stage for a sweet and sad little story of a gravedigger who
Alex Lee
Jan 10, 2016 Alex Lee rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2016
At first I thought this book was about the daughter, but it's not. Her inquisition and her actions really highlight the gravedigger's role. Although he tries to be a good father, and a good man, privy to the secrets of the dead, at the end, this role of father is methodically deconstructed by the plot to show how he needed to step beyond the role of father to be a man among other humans.

The writing is very straightforward and clear, ultimately engaging. The characters are likeable, and while the
Beregond 3019
Nov 05, 2009 Beregond 3019 rated it really liked it
Just read this book for class- it was written by a Creative writing teacher at my school! He lived in Spain for part of his life, and the book's setting is beautifully realized. This is a work of Magical Realism in the Latin American tradition; think Gabriel Garcia Marquez. What I found so compelling was its ability to enthrall by connecting the plots and slowly developing characters in that page-turning way that is usually only seen in more mainstream writing. The stories within stories are ver ...more
Jun 28, 2008 Naomi rated it liked it
Not quite three stars, but not really two either.
I think the writing was ok, although I got a little lost in places with present verses past narratives and it was overall a little inconsistent. Some sentences stood out as beautiful, some as really clumsy.
At first I didn't like it because the ending was given away at the very beginning, so I spent more time trying to get to the "when" and "how" instead of examining the "who" and "why." (This was my problem with "The Book Thief" too, I didn't see
Pretty well written for a such a sad book. There were, unfortunately, a couple of times that the language seemed out of place, such as "who wears the pants in the family". I don't know the origin of the phrase, but I'm assuming that the book takes place in the 1920s or 30s, and that phrase seemed awkward for the book. I was disturbed that the jacket flap made it seem like the father is accepting a love story when in reality it's a tragedy. I don't know if I really should've read such a sad book, ...more
Jan 16, 2010 Elizabeth rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
This book was recommended by both my sister and my friend Annie and I'm glad they brought it to my attention. Its a unique book and a great attempt at a first novel for Grandbois. My criticism (as it was also brought up in book club---Kitty's criticism as well) is that the Grandbois may be trying to hard to attempt a literary genre and culture that he is not apart of. When comparing Grandbois to magical realism literary giants like Allende or Marquez, Grandbois falls short. However to compare hi ...more
Sep 09, 2007 Alicia rated it it was amazing
Juan, the gravedigger, is a storyteller who gets his stories from the ghosts of the dead that he buries. While some of the stories he tells leave the family in peace others are not so comforting. Juan also struggles to raise his daughter alone after the death of his beloved wife. Esperanza, although a loving daughter, is also rebellious and tests the limits of her community by falling in love with a gypsy boy. This is an excellent example of magical realism and a novel infused with warmth. A lov ...more
Jul 02, 2008 Erica rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
I liked the stories, but I felt that the author missed a golden opportunity to have place and time be important characters in this book. So, in the end, I felt disappointed because the book could have been so much more than it was. Why was this story set where it was set? Why was this story set when it was set? To me, the answers to these questions are key to understanding the message behind the book, but I felt like I was left to make up that important undercurrent on my own. The author didn't ...more
Mar 15, 2008 Angela rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I got this from the library, but I loved it so much, I want a copy of my own to read and read and read again.

This book dances in both the real and spiritual realm with ease. It's unlike anything I've ever read, and though sad, it's still uplifting and hopeful. My review sucks anyway, and I cant find words to do any justice to the book or it's enchanting story, so I'll just stop here and say.. read it.
Jul 31, 2011 Megan rated it liked it
As a novel, I found it a little uneven. The first third felt a little too episodic for my taste. (I'm fine with short stories as long as that's what I know what I'm getting in to, but having said that, these were a little more strung together than typical short stories, but they didn't have enough cohesion to make the first part of a larger story). It got better, though, and I was really caring about the characters by the time I reached the end.
Jan 18, 2014 Julie rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult
Stories within a story are fun to read because of the different narrators. Many of the stories are told second hand, making the reader question them more.
My favorite theme from the book is how even after death of loved ones, life keeps going on, and who knows who will outlive whom?
This novel takes place in Spain, and I enjoyed reading about some of the old customs. I believe a lot of the Spanish was foul language, but I don't actually speak Spanish.
Jan 13, 2008 Bridget rated it it was amazing
I must come clean; Grandbois is my mentor professor for creative writing, but I read this text before studying with him--and it was phenomenal. His lyrical prose, vibrant images, and manipulation of time and truth make this a story to be read over and over. You will laugh, cry, and fall in love with each character so vividly depicted and lovingly created by a writer who clearly knows his genre and the land and people about which he writes. One of my favorite novels.
Nov 07, 2012 Emily rated it liked it
As magical realism goes, this book does not have the depth of the true geniuses of the genre, but it approaches. It fizzles at the end with unnecessary tie-ups of loose ends at the point where the reader's imagination should take hold. Also, more gypsies! The gold flecks in their eyes, the birds, the dancing in the caves! I wanted all of this incorporated into every story. Sadly, the are just a sidebar to me.
May 16, 2009 Erik rated it really liked it
A quick read, this book had enough magic in it to make it more interesting without testing my ability to believe in the story. I enjoyed the author's style: simple but poetic, enjoyable characters (warts and all). I did feel as if something was missing, perhaps the themes and lessons fell a bit flat or felt slightly forced. Maybe this was because the characters who learned them seemed to do so quickly. Still, it was a very enjoyable story.
Helen Southall
Oct 17, 2009 Helen Southall rated it really liked it
Very good story set in Spain about a gravedigger. The folklore of Spain believes that there is a thin veil between life and death. In this story, the gravedigger communicates with the ghost for whom he is digging the grave. The ghost relays his story and the gravedigger tells it at the wake. A beautiful but sad tale. Well worth reading.
Lisa Murphy
Aug 10, 2010 Lisa Murphy rated it really liked it
Shelves: magical-realism
A Spanish Gravedigger inherits the family business; burying the dead, and telling the TRUE story of their life at the graveside. You can imagine the secrets that unfold. Wonderful writing, with a touch of magic.
May 05, 2012 Tori rated it it was ok
I'm very surprised by the good reviews this book has received. It just wasn't anything special. Things were a little flat emotionally for me. I was more attached to the gypsy boy and Pepita (the town whore) than to any of the main characters.
May 24, 2008 Tania rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Although the subject matter is different, this book really reminded me of the books of Isabel Allende. I love magic realism with it's dream-like quality. Grandbois' storytelling made it very easy to look into the hearts of the characters and feel their joy/pain. A very easy and rewarding read.
Jun 07, 2015 Liz rated it really liked it
It was a really good book, but it took a little bit to get into the good parts. If definitely recommend it.
Jan 07, 2014 Alicia rated it liked it
Shelves: spain
Not a bad story in the magical realism vein, but felt a little light and not fully developed.
John Daulton
Mar 06, 2012 John Daulton rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing story, beautifully written. Such a clever idea, its real but with just the most gentle touch of magic. Absolutely fabulous and I highly recommend it.
Feb 06, 2011 Karen rated it it was amazing
Peter Grandbois is a very charming storyteller.
May 14, 2014 Kathy rated it it was ok
Probably this book deserves more than two stars. I was just not in the mood. It is about a gravedigger who hears the stories of the dead and then tells them to the surviving families.
Sep 03, 2012 Elison rated it it was amazing
Just beautiful layers of storytelling.
Jun 01, 2010 Rachel rated it really liked it
I really really liked this book. What can happen when you cling too tight.
Jan 02, 2011 Kimberly rated it it was amazing
Profoundly beautiful and sad -- juxtaposes death and the most vibrant colors of life in the same book, and, often, in the same sentence. Amazing voice and one you'll want to pass on to a friend.
Fenixbird SandS
Mar 21, 2009 Fenixbird SandS marked it as to-read
Anthropology meets mysticism....
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Peter Grandbois is the author of seven books, including: The Gravedigger, selected by Barnes and Noble for its “Discover Great New Writers” program, The Arsenic Lobster: A Hybrid Memoir, chosen as one of the top five memoirs of 2009 by the Sacramento News and Review, Nahoonkara, winner of the gold medal in literary fiction in Foreword magazine's Book of the Year Awards for 2011, a collection of su ...more
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