Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “We'll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down: Memoir of a Gravedigger's Daughter” as Want to Read:
We'll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down: Memoir of a Gravedigger's Daughter
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

We'll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down: Memoir of a Gravedigger's Daughter

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  391 ratings  ·  81 reviews
Rachael Hanel’s name was inscribed on a gravestone when she was eleven years old. Yet this wasn’t at all unusual in her world: her father was a gravedigger in the small Minnesota town of Waseca, and death was her family’s business. Her parents were forty-two years old and in good health when they erected their gravestone—Rachael’s name was simply a branch on the sprawling ...more
Paperback, 194 pages
Published March 17th 2013 by Univ Of Minnesota Press (first published January 1st 2013)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.65  · 
Rating details
 ·  391 ratings  ·  81 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of We'll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down: Memoir of a Gravedigger's Daughter
Kristin Thompson ashland
Jan 10, 2013 rated it really liked it

I don't typically like memoirs because I feel like the author is using the platform to justify their behavior. This memoir, however, is more a story of growing up in a small town trying to figure out this big, complicated world. The writing is insightful, quirky, and fully relatable. I read it in a day and a half, which hasn't happened in awhile! I thoroughly enjoyed it!
Lori Clark
Feb 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed reading about all the different stories contained within the pages of this memoir. I don't often read memoirs, at least not the ones of normal, everyday, non-famous midwesterners. I found the stories about all the different cemeteries and the stories behind the tombstones entertaining. When we walk or bike or drive through a cemetery, how often do we stop to consider all the things that go on behind the scenes? Or about the people buried there? I used to enjoy riding my bike through th ...more
Apr 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Wow. This was an amazing read! I had to stop and take breathers on occasion because it was just so powerful. Cheers to Rachael for writing a book that can be so insightful and uplifting about life and death without the depressing edge that is so innate to death and dying.
Wayne McCoy
Apr 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
We'll Be The Last To Let You Down is a memoir by Rachael Hanel. It's a series of shorter stories in which she talks about her gravedigger father and life and death in a small town. The larger discussion is about how we deal with grief and death.

Rachael grew up playing among the gravestones in small cemeteries around her small town. Her father dug graves and her father and mother cut grass and tended the graveyards. Rachael grew up knowing the stories of the people who died, but grief never reall
Mar 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
WE'LL BE THE LAST ONES TO LET YOU DOWN is an encapsulated view of a rather unconventional childhood growing up in a family whose business was tending to cemeteries, digging graves for the deceased. As a child, she was unafraid of death, played among the headstones, learned to respect the lives of those who had passed, because each had a story to tell that was more than the eye could see.

Rachael Hanel has shared beautiful moments and memories of her life growing up as the daughter of "Digger O'D
Feb 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoirs, nonfiction
I have always been fascinated by cemeteries and the stories they hold, so I had a good feeling that the author and I would be somewhat kindred spirits on that concept.

And We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down: Memoir of a Gravedigger’s Daughter did not disappoint.

Rachael Hanel’s respect and reverence for those buried at the cemeteries her parents cared for anchor this memoir while her personal experiences, memories, and photographs pull the reader in on a personal level as they are both grippin
May 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Pleasant surprise book that Meat Eater found at AWP. I am so happy I got the last copy. Well written, even paced, personable but universal enough that I totally related. Great balance.
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a very moving book, but especially so for me because my family and I lived in this town around the time this book takes place. Many of the people are very familiar to me, some close friends to my parents. The places are all part of my siblings and my growing up. But the book embraces a far more universal scope, that part of life that can not be ignored.....and that is death.
Jessica Jeffers
An enjoyable memoir of what it was like to grow up in 1970s Minnesota, well-written but a little lacking in focus.

Rachel Hanel's father was a grave digger in their small town, so she grew up somewhat unfazed by death and cemeteries. These were all simply part of her day-to-day life. She writes about what that was like, while also giving us a peek into her family's history and exploring some of the losses therein. I liked reading Hanel's story, but I wish she had further plumbed some depths as I
Linda Kenny
Jun 21, 2015 rated it liked it
Great title for this book. I was really interested in the perspective of growing up around cemeteries and the stories that were behind the tombstones. If you grew up in a small town the cemetery is a reflection of the lives of your neighbors and your own family. I too knew a couple who bought their headstone ahead of time and invited us all to go and see it. Eventually the grave was occupied but the story is told every time we pass them. I enjoyed the history; the look at life in a small Minneso ...more
Feb 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
This was a fantastic read and a very interesting memoir of death in small town Minnesota. The story was so hypnotic and I could not put it down. It really touched me since I lost my Dad a few years ago. I loved reading about how she felt about the land because I feel exactly the same way. I long for wide open spaces. We know a lot of people who live in and around Waseca, MN so it made this book extra special. Highly recommended.
Nov 17, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013, library
A sweet, somewhat sad story of a girl and her family life.
Dec 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I couldn't put this book down for long, so engaging and insightful. Hanel, the author, peals back the layers of her experiences, primarily with the subject of death. Her father was a gravedigger, making her familiar from a young age with the mortality that faces all humans sooner or later or unexpectedly. Through a series of growth spurts in her life, Hanel probes and uncovers what most in society repress, which makes for therapeutic reading. She takes on the deadly serious with frankness, an e ...more
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read this book in one day. It made me want to hug the author and never let her go.

I felt very connected with the author as a young girl. Innocent and needing much more love and guidance after her father's unexpected death.

I loved the photos that were included in the book. It felt like I was welcome into the author's life and felt I needed to be present to hear what she needed to share with me.

Oct 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Reading this book took me back to my childhood when my family lived in Waseca. There were many familiar names, some dear family friends; I could relive my early growing years and be reminded why those years in Waseca and the surrounding area..visits to friends’ farm, Clear Lake, the sound of loons on the lakes, huge snowbanks, ice skating at the school, and the warm sunny days of endless summers were my favorite.
Tim Timberly
Nov 05, 2018 rated it liked it
I picked this book up on a whim and was surprised by how easy it was to read. I like reading stories about people, and the author provided many of the about people from her town and from her own extended family. Most of the stories were about death, which shouldn't be surprising given that her family business was cemetery maintenance.
Therese Dotray-Tulloch
Jun 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Local Waseca author writes her memoir centering around the tragically early death of her father who dug graves and maintained cemeteries for a living. A good read with some nuggets of truth to keep you reading.
Amy McCall
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I love Minnesota, history, Six Feet Under, and learning the stories of people's lives. I will read this again and again in the future.
May 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very interesting family story - easy to read - authentic in the author's discoveries despite her long held beliefs from childhood. Recommend.
Jan 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
I enjoy memoirs and learning about regional life and culture. It is a well-written insight into families..lives and deaths.
Stephanie  Harchar
Jan 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
We all start and we all end. Treasure the time between.
Story Circle Book Reviews
Oct 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
"I grew up in cemeteries," begins Rachael Hanel in We'll be the Last Ones to Let You Down: Memoir of a Gravedigger's Daughter. "Cemeteries fed my imagination, and looking back, they even gave birth to it." In this book, which drew me and would not let go, Hanel's imagination and memory take us on a journey through not only her past and present, but the past and present of the place and people around her, creating a world that feels both ephemeral and real at the same time. Every time I opened th ...more
Brittany R
For more reviews, visit The 1000th Voice

Described as macabre and lyrical, Rachael Hanel’s memoir is about life, death, cemeteries and her father’s unexpected and timely death.

When Rachael was young, her father Paul began a career as a gravedigger. While talking about her father she writes about how he’d grown up as one of 14 children. Her grandparents worked hard just to feed their children. College and eventual careers weren’t in the equation. While his siblings found jobs, Paul build a career.
Feb 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Reviewed by A Simple Taste for Reading:

I would like to thank the author, Rachael Hanel for sending me her book. Keep an eye out as she will be a featured author of the month!

This book had my life written all over it. My parents own a monument company and growing up, I spent a lot of time in cemeteries since I was too young to stay at home. Rachael’s story is a bit different from mine though. Her dad actually dug the graves where as my dad places the memorial in the cemeteries. Needless to say, I
First sentence: "I grew up in cemeteries."

Rachael Hanel's father was a grave digger. As a result, Rachael grew up surrounded by death; playing in cemeteries and attending wakes in her small Minnesota town of Waseca. She thought she knew what death was and knew there was nothing to be afraid of. But personal tragedy leads her to realize that death and grief are not the same things at all. This book is her personal journey to understanding death and grief through the stories of the residents of W
Angela Risner
Sep 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
I have to admit, I had never really thought about grave digging as a profession or a family business. This is an intriguing look into the business of death from the post-funeral perspective.

Hanel's father was a grave digger in a small Minnesota town where everyone knew everyone. He took care of the details most of us never think about - from making sure that artificial turf is used to cover the mound of dirt to caring for the caskets when the ground is too frozen to dig a grave. His goal was to
Helen Barlow
Apr 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Originally published on my blog My Novel Opinion

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

WE'LL BE THE LAST ONES TO LET YOU DOWN was an interesting insight into the world of gravedigging from the perspective of a young girl. Rachel Hanel's father takes on the persona of Digger O'Dell and runs a gravedigging business with the whole family helping out. Hanel's story takes you behind the scenes of her father's business and how being close to death her entire li
Luanne Castle
Nov 15, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
Rachael Hanel tells the story of growing up in a small town in Minnesota. Her father was a caretaker at the cemeteries, as well as a digger of graves.

The emphasis on cemeteries and graves in the book make their way onto the page of her blog, as well. Very educational and even entertaining to look directly at headstones and death, without flinching. While Hanel’s family story and history is very middle America (and I don’t mean that dismissively–it’s interesting for its specificity), the style sh
Jill Kalz
Feb 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"Admiration" is the first word that comes to mind when I think about Rachael Hanel's latest book. Loved the ease of the writing -- honest, clean, controlled, with just enough lyrical language to sustain my interest without seeming forced or written to draw attention to itself. Loved the pacing -- slowing to linger in just the right spots and leaping in other spots to keep the narrative from flagging. As I read, I wondered at the organization of the chapters/scenes, how the author decided what to ...more
Sara Furr
Jan 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
**I received an advance copy of this book from a Goodreads Giveaway.**

This book is an enjoyable read. I have so many things in common with the author - I grew up in the Midwest and spent hours playing in the cemetery - especially when visiting my grandparents. Like Rachael, I used to and continue to imagine the stories behind the stones. I used to walk through the cemetery with my mom and we'd think about the lives led by those who went before us. I've never felt it was morbid, just something we
« previous 1 3 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • How We Fight For Our Lives
  • In Bed with the Badge: The Barbara Sheehan Story
  • The Woman Behind the New Deal: The Life of Frances Perkins, FDR'S Secretary of Labor and His Moral Conscience
  • Five-Alarm Fudge
  • Kindness and Wonder: Why Mister Rogers Matters Now More Than Ever
  • Interior States: Essays
  • Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts
  • Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen: A Culinary View of Lincoln's Life and Times
  • Unfollow: A Journey from Hatred to Hope
  • The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic—and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World
  • How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America
  • Race Against Time: A Reporter Reopens the Unsolved Murder Cases of the Civil Rights Era
  • Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs
  • Weighing the Soul: The Evolution of Scientific Beliefs
  • Hannah's War
  • Weird Al: Seriously
  • Murder in the Reading Room
  • Ingredients: The Strange Chemistry of What We Put in Us and on Us
See similar books…
I'm a writer and associate professor of mass media in southern Minnesota, where I was born and raised. WE'LL BE THE LAST ONES TO LET YOU DOWN is my first book for adults. I have written more than 20 books for the children's educational market. I have finished a narrative nonfiction manuscript, UNLIKELY TERRORIST: CAMILLA HALL AND THE SYMBIONESE LIBERATION ARMY. I'm currently shopping it around to ...more

Related Articles

There is nothing like reading a history or biography book and being so completely transported to another time and place that you find...
44 likes · 16 comments
“Stories weren't just make believe, all Dr. Seuss and Mother Goose. I saw a circle: first life, then death. Spring, summer, fall, winter. Blue sky and storms and quilts of cold clouds occupy the same space but at different times. Memories and stories help you rebuild. Things most precious to you may be gone, lost to the wicked wind, but you remember what had been, and you move on.” 2 likes
“Mom was the midwife who delivered stories to me.” 0 likes
More quotes…