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The Obituary Writer

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  13,622 ratings  ·  1,939 reviews
On the day John F. Kennedy is inaugurated, Claire, a young wife and mother obsessed with the glamor 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 earlier, in 1919, Vivien Lowe, an obituary writer, is searching for her lover, who disappeared in the Great ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published October 7th 2013 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 2013)
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Lisa I bet the jacket was written by someone at the publishing company who only had pieces of information about the book which is why they put Jackie O. Th…moreI bet the jacket was written by someone at the publishing company who only had pieces of information about the book which is why they put Jackie O. The actual book never makes the mistake. Great example of "Don't judge a book by its cover." :)(less)
Mary Daniels
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Average rating 3.72  · 
Rating details
 ·  13,622 ratings  ·  1,939 reviews

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Jeanette (Again)
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
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
May 24, 2016 rated it liked it
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
May 01, 2013 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 about ...more
May 23, 2013 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
Larry H
Mar 31, 2013 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
Nov 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
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
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
Primrose Jess
Apr 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 29, 2014 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
Audrey Runner
Jul 30, 2013 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
B the BookAddict
Jul 06, 2013 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
Mar 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, favorites
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!!!!
Elyse  Walters
Feb 01, 2013 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 'crafting' (
Sep 23, 2013 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.
May 22, 2014 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
Diane Yannick
Aug 01, 2013 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
The Obituary Writer was in my TBR queue and I dove in without a lot of knowledge (other than that which is lent by the title itself) of this book.

Claire, one of the main characters, was difficult for me to feel very sympathetic about. . . .wishy-washy. It seems to me that we all have at least one friend in our friend group that is like this. The one that makes a dinner decision choice for the group a career. Only for Claire it was men - and as a married one, that bugged me. I get it when a partn
I really enjoyed this book. It had a fiftyesque charm to the writing. It also highlighted what being a woman in that time was like. A few surprising plot twists tossed in. Recommend.
Jan 28, 2013 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
Jun 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Diane S ☔
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
Dec 06, 2013 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.
Feb 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 14, 2015 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
Lorri Steinbacher
Mar 01, 2013 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.

Mary Kubica
Apr 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
Insightful, well written. Loved the 1960s references. Full review to follow.
May 13, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very enjoyable read by Ann Hood. I found myself totally wrapped up in both stories of Claire and Vivian which were told in two different time frames. I loved all the references to the 1960’s since I was a tween/teen at that time! The Obituary Writer explores love, grief, and heartbreak and makes the reader feel connected to the women and the times. Good book. 3.5 stars.
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Play Book Tag: The Obituary Writer - Ann Hood - 2 stars 2 16 Aug 05, 2016 08:35AM  
Ellet Branch Libr...: Opening Thoughts 2 17 Oct 07, 2015 10:38AM  
The quote for your obit 3 31 Sep 01, 2014 03:41PM  
What did Claire decide to do? 7 96 Sep 01, 2014 03:37PM  
Hamburg Book Club: The Larkin Square Author Series 4 20 Feb 19, 2014 07:01AM  
Goodreads Choice ...: Audible Deal of the Day 9 59 Nov 19, 2013 08:26PM  
AMPL Online: The Obituary Writer Discussion 1 23 Aug 19, 2013 09:33AM  

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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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