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The Obituary Writer

3.70  ·  Rating Details  ·  9,860 Ratings  ·  1,521 Reviews
On the day John F. Kennedy is inaugurated, Claire, an uncompromising young wife and mother obsessed with the glamour of Jackie O, struggles over the decision of whether to stay in a loveless marriage or follow the man she loves and whose baby she may be carrying. Decades earlier, in 1919, Vivien Lowe, an obituary writer, is searching for her lover who disappeared in the Gr ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published October 7th 2013 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2013)
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Pam Yes, Elizabeth Greene! I found those errors, too, and it always knocks a book down a few notches whenever I do. Careless, and makes me wonder how they…moreYes, Elizabeth Greene! I found those errors, too, and it always knocks a book down a few notches whenever I do. Careless, and makes me wonder how they got by all the people that supposedly read it before it went to press?(less)
Meghan
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
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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
...more
☮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
Dana
Dec 02, 2014 Dana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Mary
May 24, 2013 Mary rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Beth Van Fossen
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
Larry Hoffer
Mar 31, 2013 Larry Hoffer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Audrey
Jul 23, 2014 Audrey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Lori
Dec 12, 2015 Lori rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!!!!
Holly
Feb 09, 2015 Holly rated it it was amazing
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.
Mary
May 22, 2014 Mary rated it it was ok
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
...more
B the BookAddict
Jun 06, 2014 B the BookAddict rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Diane Yannick
Aug 01, 2013 Diane Yannick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Marla
Jul 12, 2015 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
...more
Barb
Feb 01, 2013 Barb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'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
...more
Lorri Steinbacher
Mar 01, 2013 Lorri Steinbacher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.

Denise Gianelli
Apr 19, 2015 Denise Gianelli rated it really liked it
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
...more
Mari
Dec 06, 2013 Mari rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Jennifer
Jun 28, 2015 Jennifer rated it liked it
Shelves: audio, 2015
This book is definitely flawed and predictable but it was also completely entertaining and just really pleasant - which seems like a strange word to use to describe a book. I listened to this over the course of a week and although I often felt annoyed with how silly Claire seemed at times and I felt that the interwoven plot lines were too obviously connected, I was still always happy to get back to it for the next chapter. Narrator Tavia Gilbert does a good job creating character voices that are ...more
Pam
Jun 11, 2013 Pam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Literary Vixens
May 06, 2013 Literary Vixens rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“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
...more
Elyse
Oct 22, 2013 Elyse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Amy
Mar 04, 2013 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
C
Mar 26, 2013 C rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed it - and especially the juxtaposition of the two women and the times they lived in.

I liked that both women were dwelling somewhere in the gray area of what is acceptable in society, but both so very...human. It is sad, to me, that Claire didn't get to know her Mother in Law better earlier on, as I think she'd have learned something from her. Then again, what we do in our past often does not apply to our perspective of *others* behavior in the present...so that might have gone quite th
...more
Barb
Mar 24, 2013 Barb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book - two women, one in the early 1900s, one in the 1960s. Both struggle with their relationships and their relationships were quite different and yet the same. It was a book of reinforcements for me that we all have issues, conflicts, insecurities and ways of dealing with the people in our lives. For these two women, the people were men - a married lover, a rebound husband for the women named Vivien telling her story from the 1900s. For Claire in the 1960s, her husband and a married love ...more
Alena
Jul 31, 2013 Alena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-riot
I really loved the subtext and mood of this book. Ann Hood tackles grief in a very unusual way, focusing on two women both mourning lives that "could have been."

Chapters are split between Vivienne in 1919 and Claire in 1961. I found myself more drawn into Vivienne's story. She is the obituary writer of the title, struggling to come to terms with the disappearance (not necessarily death) of her lover after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Her pain is very much on the surfacce, with coping mecha
...more
Diane
Mar 16, 2013 Diane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, auidobook
I may have liked this better had I read it in print. The reader, Tavia Gilbert, did very well with Vivien; her gentle patience with the grieving persons who sought her obituary services was lovely. That was probably my favorite part of the book. However, Claire came across as almost babyish. I have met women from that era that maintained the cute & silly wifey persona and it is quite grating, so perhaps the fault is with my ears rather than with Gilbert's narration. Also...it brought out my ...more
Natalie Tyler
This novel was an engrossing one but I was left with the sense that I will have forgotten the reading experience quickly. I think that the purpose might be to highlight women's lives in the early 20th century and again in 1961--the book revolves around two women who have lost their lovers and who have to "settle" for second best in the long run.

What worked for me: the excitement about the inauguration of JFK and the way people were so enchanted with him and his young, lovely wife. I remember it
...more
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
Ellet Branch Libr...: Opening Thoughts 2 14 Oct 07, 2015 10:38AM  
The quote for your obit 3 29 Sep 01, 2014 03:41PM  
What did Claire decide to do? 7 88 Sep 01, 2014 03:37PM  
Hamburg Book Club: The Larkin Square Author Series 4 18 Feb 19, 2014 07:01AM  
Goodreads Choice ...: Audible Deal of the Day 10 55 Nov 19, 2013 08:26PM  
AMPL Online: The Obituary Writer Discussion 1 20 Aug 19, 2013 09:33AM  
DG Reads- Sailing...: The Obituary Writer discussion (July) 1 62 Jul 11, 2013 07:57AM  
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Ann Hood is the author of six works of fiction, including the bestseller The Knitting Circle and, most recently, The Obituary Writer, as well as a memoir, Comfort. She is also the editor of Knitting Yarns: Writers on Knitting. The winner of two Pushcart prizes as well as Best American Food Writing, Best American Travel Writing, and Best American Spiritual Writing awards, she lives in Providence, R ...more
More about Ann Hood...

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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.” 10 likes
“love is reliable. infatuation is temporary.” 9 likes
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