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The Funeral Makers (Mattagash #1)

3.72  ·  Rating Details ·  375 Ratings  ·  46 Reviews
Meet the residents of Mattagash, Maine, a dull backwater town where nothing is what it seems.

This is the story of the trials that beset the McKinnons, the first family of Mattagash, Maine, when they try to arrange a funeral for the family matriarch. At the heart of the novel are the three McKinnon sisters: Marge, the one who is dying; Pearl, the one who left town; Sicily,
Paperback, 256 pages
Published May 6th 1997 by Scribner (first published 1986)
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Apr 28, 2014 Melki rated it really liked it
"There's no starting over in Mattagash," she thought, "and they never let your children forget, or your grandchildren. You don't get a second chance here." And she wondered why they had even bothered to form a historical society when the minds in Mattagash were all bulging museums open to the public year round, and inherited by those not even born yet."

Welcome to Mattagash, Maine, a town founded in the 1800s by a small band of illogical men and women. Now at the tail end of the 1950s, logic sti
Jul 10, 2011 Linda rated it really liked it
The strange thing about this book is how much I enjoyed reading it but that I am at a loss as how to describe it in this review. I can't even think what I could compare it to. It is not quite like anything I have read before. I don't think the blurbs on the back of the book do it justice. Reading those alone, I would never have selected this book. It was highly recommended to me by a friend whose opinion I trust. I thought maybe if I read some Good Reads reader reviews, something there might bri ...more
Robert Rodi
Jul 15, 2014 Robert Rodi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the first in Cathie Pelletier's wonderful series about life in rural Mattagash, Maine (an analogue for her own Allagash, if I recall correctly), which continues to this day. It's cripplingly funny and wonderfully lyrical, and it's been out of print for a lonnng time, so it's hugely satisfying to see it back in a beautiful new trade dress along with its immediate sequels, A WEDDING ON THE BANKS and THE WEIGHT OF WINTER. There are characters and situations in these novels that will never, ...more
Barksdale Penick
Jul 15, 2013 Barksdale Penick rated it really liked it
I believe I started this book many years ago and was put off by the absurdist humor at the beginning. This time I again found it slow going at first but as events marched on the drive and structure of the plot came clear, and I found lovely observations about life, about sadness and disappointment, and how the passing of time lowers people's expectations, goals and hopes. But the book isn't bleak or hopeless, as the characters come to accept these changes and better understand themselves and the ...more
Apr 15, 2013 Jennifer rated it really liked it
I found Pelletier's The Funeral Makers a bit like Garrison Keillor’s Lake Woebegone…however, unlike Mr. Keillor’s Minnesota residents, you get the feeling that in Mattagash, Maine, things are not going to work out as well. And they don’t.
So, first I laughed. And then there were tears. Why, oh why, are all the books I read lately making me cry?
Feb 26, 2017 Jenny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel came to me by way of a friend who picked it up at Big Lots, which says something about what happens to good books that aren't penned by a celebrity author. I liked the novel, loved the writing. Set in the isolated (fictional) small town of Mattagash, Maine, the characters are small-town everymen (and -women and -kids), petty and unhappy and none too bright. It's a comedic novel, the characters and their faults larger than life, the situations increasingly ridiculous. And it was funny. ...more
Mar 30, 2014 Trisha rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

Set in the 1950’s in Northern Maine, in one sense this book is about life in a small rural community in the 1950s. But Mattagash, Maine is about as far removed from Lake Wobegon, Minnesota as it could possibly be. The women aren’t strong, none of the men are good looking and all of the children are definitely well below average. It’s not the kind of place most people would want to come home to. Not only because most of the quirky people who live there had yet to install indoor plumbing, but als
Jan 27, 2016 Sherry rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Maine Author. #1 in Mattagash series. Quirky family gathers for funeral of not dead oldest sister, Marge McKinnon, who raised her two younger sisters Pearl and Sicily when their mother died after Sicily's birth and their hard nosed missionary father, having scared off Marge's only suitor, who was both a con artist and already married, abandons them to go convert the heathens in China and dies there of Kala-azur. Pearl took the bus out to Portland to go to beauty school, married Marvin Ivy, a law ...more
Yvonne Williams
Aug 04, 2013 Yvonne Williams rated it really liked it
"Later, as they dragged the dead deer away, he saw the cedar boughs scattered about on the snow and knew that in Mattagash, as it was in nature, everything you put up to protect yourself, to shelter yourself, would be broken away by somebody, sooner or later, and your very hide would be stripped from your bones, leaving you naked and shaken beside the red drops on Mattagash's white snow." Pg 175 The Funeral Makers

This excerpt, like many parts of this book, is filled with raw and dark emotion. I
Aug 07, 2015 Celia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Here is a partial bio (from Wikipedia) about Cathie Pelletier:

Pelletier displayed exceptional aptitude as a student and, consequently, was advanced two grades (the sixth grade and her senior year), graduating high school at the age of sixteen years. Pelletier distinguished herself by wearing brash clothes that she claimed were "an outlet for her creativity." At seventeen years she was expelled from the University of Maine at Fort Kent for breaking curfew and pulling a fire alarm.

I could use some
Mar 05, 2014 Ashley-Marie is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I received this copy from Goodreads First Reads.
It's good, but really REALLY weird. I'm enjoying the narrative, the McKinnons, Giffords, the drunks, the bored housewives and everyone in between. The author moves from the little histories of its minor characters to the unsettling feelings of the books main characters.

The book follows the lives of three sisters, each middle aged with very different lives. Pearl lives in the city and has married into a family of funeral directors. She's coming ba
Oct 09, 2015 Cindy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Was this supposed to be a comedy? The scenes involving the kids were pretty good slapstick - slapstick usually includes physical pain for someone. This is not a funny story though, not at all. It is a good story about the darker side of small town life, the claustrophobia and the back biting and the pleasure taken in the troubles of others ... what you might call the meanness of small town folks. Small town mean is way worse than cities because it's so much more personal than what you encounter ...more
Dec 18, 2016 Peggy rated it really liked it
I picked this book up at the Naples, Maine library book sale this last summer. I like quirky and this is the queen of quirky! At first I thought it might be too quirky for me, I kept thinking I should be reading a Christmas mystery right now. But without me even knowing it Pelletier was reeling me into these wacky people's lives and suddenly I couldn't put it down! How she was able to get me invested in these nutty peoples lives just goes to show what a good writer she is!

Morbidly funny really
Aug 31, 2016 Helenk rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I do not allow myself to put aside a book just because I don't think I like it. Well, this book, for me, is a good example. I made myself finish it and I am so happy I am done. The cover mentions it is hilariously irreverant, comic, tragic and lyrical. I found it very depressing and not hilarious at all. I do wonder if small town life (isolated town at that) is so horrible. This town is definitely not Mayberry nor does it have any of the redeeming characters. I cannot recommend this book. I see ...more
Jul 28, 2016 Les rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There were two reasons it took me so long to finish this book. First, I've been busy with work. Second, I never really felt compelled to pick it up.

I started it because to description emphasized the humor in the story. While there was some humor, the characters evoked a much stronger feeling of sympathy and even pity. Mattagash seemed like a much meaner version of Mayberry, and everyone in the story seemed to be trapped by it, rather than comfortable.
Leslie Bulion
I enjoyed how this author gave us a window into the life of a dying character through her own memories and through the lives and interactions of family and friends around her. I finished the book feeling the main character was a person well-worth knowing, and her sisters were also heroes in living the lives they'd been dealt. Engaging and evocative, with conversations and images staying with me beyond the reading.
May 19, 2014 grundoon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 An impending death in a tiny town on the border of Maine and Canada is the lynchpin for a tale of several families. Inbred, dysfunctional or family of one - broken people, all, with broken dreams. I didn't really enjoy the meta-tone of the ending, and every time I set it aside I had to steel myself to re-enter their lives, yet... I honestly can't find fault with this book. Disturbing and subtly humorous throughout - usually simultaneously - this is incredibly good story telling.
Oct 14, 2013 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read The One Way Bridge and really enjoyed it so I googled Cathie Pelletier and discovered her 1st novel was published in the 1980's. I immediately headed for our local library and checked out The Funeral Makers, where I was introduced to the residents of Mattagash..."characters: in every sense of the word. Funny and touching...looking forward to reading Once Upon a Time on the Banks.
Funny, slightly bizarre, and memorable characters. Not to mention memorable diseases that rhyme and sound like Pez flavors... you really can't go wrong with this light and quirky novel. I wish it had been a little bit more structured, and it tends to jump around the family tree a little bit but overall, it was enjoyable.
May 29, 2013 Darcy rated it liked it
"irreverent, comic, tragic, lyrical". YES! it read like watching the Skagit river bridge collapsing right in front of you; and took me back to my childhood and the annual migration to the Memorial Day family reunion in Oregon. what an interesting look into the backwoods of NW Maine that seemed 50 years behind their closest community neighbor; and the characters that such a community creates.
Jodi Blackman
Jan 12, 2015 Jodi Blackman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I wasn't sure about the book at first but was captivated by the backwoods Maine town and its people by the end. Amongst the stories I found pathos and humour. And ocassionally, poetry. I would recommend this book and will try to find the sequels.
Melissa Coyle
The Funeral Makers is so well written that you can see the scenes taking place in full color! These are ordinary people living in a small town in Maine as close to the Canadian border as possible will make for a hilarious read. A very satisfying read!!! Highly recommend.
Jul 07, 2012 Lori rated it liked it
The earliest of Pelletier's Mattagash trilogy is an enjoyable, not too grim introduction to her wry humor and acerbic take on a Peyton Place-like town with its prejudices, social divisions, and requisite lowlifes. Reminiscent of Carolyn Chute's work as well.
Feb 03, 2016 Grace rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars Backdrop of this story appealed to my Maine roots although the dialogue seemed more universal than Maine-tinged. Quirky characters; uncomplicated read; philosophical glimpses of mid-20th century lives in a small northern Maine town.
Apr 25, 2015 Jennifer rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stopped-reading
I didn't end up finishing this before it was time to return to the library. And I couldn't really get into it which is in part why it wasn't finished. I have another book by Pelletier that I'll give a go, and see if I will revisit The Funeral Makers.
Martye Jeffords
Jul 18, 2012 Martye Jeffords rated it it was amazing
If you want to laugh oout loud - read this
Ted Parkhurst
Nov 28, 2013 Ted Parkhurst rated it it was amazing
What a wonderfully inventive writer!
Jul 21, 2010 Joanne rated it really liked it
I grew up in New England, this author knows what she's talking about.
Sep 26, 2015 Diana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook
There's something very Flannery O'Connor about this author, who paints a darkly funny and believable portrait of ordinary people in Maine. A solid 3.5.
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Other Books in the Series

Mattagash (4 books)
  • Once Upon a Time on the Banks (Mattagash, #2)
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