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Driving with Dead People: A Memoir

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  4,698 Ratings  ·  494 Reviews
Small wonder that, at nine years old, Monica Holloway develops a fascination with the local funeral home. With a father who drives his Ford pickup with a Kodak movie camera sitting shotgun just in case he sees an accident, and whose home movies feature more footage of disasters than of his children, Monica is primed to become a morbid child.

Yet in spite of her father's b

Paperback, 336 pages
Published March 4th 2008 by Gallery Books (first published March 1st 2007)
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Aug 11, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was written by a woman from my hometown. She was a year behind me in high school. She has changed all the names of people and places in this memoir but I recognized them all.
Her story proves you never know what is really going on in someone else's life.
May 12, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookclub, memoir
I wished there had been obvious signs of destruction on all of us kids: bruises or burn marks, something that indicated how violent our house was, but words and neglect don't leave visible marks.

3.5 stars. I read this book in two sittings, even though I thought it was off to a slow start. I loved that the author's perspective changed as she grew up. When she described things that happened to her at the start of the book, from a child's point of view, everything was almost fine with her. Describi
BAM The Bibliomaniac
The book greatly affected me and I can't tell you how or why without spoilers.

2017 Lenten nonfiction Buddy Reading Challenge book #36
Mar 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read Glass Castle over a month before this book and I've come to a profound conclusion. I may not have had my parents as long as I'd wanted, but they were great parents. The girl in Glass Castle and now Monica Halloway, both endured child abuse most of their lives and their parents were around a LONG time. My mom died when I as 24 and my dad when I was 17; I may have been a little sheltered, but they brought me up VERY well. I always felt loved, that they were proud of me, and if they were dis ...more
Apr 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a surprise. You think that it's going to be about this little girl who ends up having an obsession with death and the mortuary and the story ends up being about something totally different. Great story but it's not a "good feeling" book, if that is what you are looking for.
Aug 19, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Not for the faint of heart. So sad and disturbing. The abuse the father inflicts on this family and the blind eye the mother turns to her children made me feel ill.
Jan 06, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
I didn't like this book as much as I thought I would. It wasn't that it was a bad story per se, it was just that to me what makes memoirs good is that either #1 People can look back and laugh at their dysfunction (because we are all a little dysfunctional) or #2 That they can look back and say they have learned from their experience and that they have overcome what may have been a bad childhood or whatever. This book does not do that. Throughout the whole book, the author still seems bitter and ...more
Oct 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't know why I didn't review this book when I read it. It was fabulous! What a ride! Funny. Sad. Uncomfortable. Heart stirring. Get ready to go green light brain food. Insanely creative, beautiful, at times razor sharp, and magnificent prose. Emotionally compelling. Achingly searching. Gut and soul honest. Utterly unique and one of a kind.
I can't describe the characters without creating spoilers. You will love one and some, and loathe others.
One of my top reads for 2013 and likely for many
May 19, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I would give this memoir 2.5 stars if I could. But with the plethora of good, thoughtful, emotive and cathartic memoirs out there (Liar's Club, The Glass Castle), I can't say I gained much from this book aside from an interesting story. The writing missed an ingredient that indicates introspection, compassion, even rage. For all the dysfunction (and I come from a highly dysfunctional background that might even eclipse this), I could never get behind this writer. She reported her story to us, rat ...more
Apr 16, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An intriuging true story of a girl who has a horrific childhood addled with both abuse and sheer indifference at the hands of her parents. Holloway becomes obsessed with death, as she sees this as the only viable option in her dark life, and ends up befriending the daughter of the town's funeral home owner. Most kids have a summer job flipping burgers or scooping ice cream, Holloway spent summers in her teenage years driving with dead people, literally picking up dead bodies at the local airport ...more
Feb 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. What a ride. I kept thinking of Jeannette Walls and The Glass Castle. I don't know how people can share their deepest, darkest personal experiences like this. It had to be very therapeudic for the author. She is a survivor and I hope her parents burn in hell.
Oct 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who has had to confront the monsters in the closet or is looking for the courage to do so.
Books enter our lives through mysterious paths sometimes. I'd put this on my amazon wish list and seen it noted in the New Yorker. Then, for my final shoot for a magazine I was parting ways with, I was asked to photograph the author. Not only is Monica's story told with tremendous candor and wit, after becoming friends I learned first hand how authentically voice comes through in the narrative. As a big fan of the genre, too many memoirs are over written and lack the real voice behind the tale. ...more
Mar 12, 2009 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a page turner. Everytime I open it, the time flys by and before I know it I have been reading for a few hours. Monica Holloway is a wonderful author. Im looking forward to reading other by her.
Tammy Reyes
Aug 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, favorites
This one is going on my favorites shelf. It might not be appropriate reading for all as the author tells the story of her dysfunctional youth and family. I enjoyed her attitude/perspective and related to her ultimate 'moving on' to capture a life that feels happy for her.
Jennifer Lauck
Mar 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Monica has become a friend of mine, so I cannot possibly say a bad thing about her book! It's wonderful, funny, stunningly sad and heroic. I love this book and recommend it to students for humor and just damn good story telling.
Sarah Shimshock
Mar 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent, excellent, excellent! Heartbreaking and dark, yet lighthearted and told with such hope.
Feb 02, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
I have to sit back and ask myself, how is it this person is still alive and, according to the epilogue (and book deal) thriving? For someone as obsessed with death, dying and suicide as Holloway is after surviving an abusive, indifferent upbringing and one mentally destructive relationship after another, I am amazed she didn't step in front of the subway car the many, many times she mentions she was going to. My continued reading of this book was less interest and more like seeing an accident (a ...more
Sonja Arlow
3 stars

This is an honest and painful memoir that’s not for the faint hearted.

The first 1/3 of the book is very reminiscent of Glass Castle, with the same humor and almost lightly detached recollection of really very painful childhood memories. However the main difference between these books were that the parents in Glass Castle who, although inadequate, actually loved their kids in some twisted way.

What a piece of shit Monica’s dad was – constantly out to humiliate or physically hurt his kids a
Feb 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this memoir to be very "novelish" in the writing style. Kept having to remind myself it was actually the telling of the family life of the author. Somehow it made the book slightly unbelievable to me. I had a difficult time reaching down inside to capture my feelings for this child/young woman and her poor family...and I'm not quite sure why. Possibly because it isn't until the end of the memoir that we get a sense of her true feelings and the pain she actually felt. I know that in many ...more
Apr 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This memoir brought back many memories for me--the HR Pufinstuf lunchbox (which I never got to have but longed for) and the elephant bells (which I unfortunately owned and wore). The story gets deeper and deeper as the author realizes things about her childhood and her family. It took turns I did not expect but Ms. Holloway wrote about them in an honest, raw way that made for an intriguing story.

I was a little disappointed that after reading the book, I flipped back to the front and read the no
Christy Baugher
Oct 31, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a really fasinating book. This girl is growing up in a home where the dad is obsesed with death and stops to take pictures of cars accidents, the mother goes back to school and becomes neglectful and not to mention, her best friend's family runs the town's funeral home. As she grows it becomes apparent to her that her life is screwed up and waiting to come is her parents' biggest betrayal yet. It is truely a beautiful memoir of one girl's refusal to be put down despite her family.

This w
Dec 04, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This memoir spans Monica Holloway's life from age 8 to the present time. I found the parts about her wholly dysfunctional childhood much more interesting than the later sections (especially tale after tale of all of the mistakes she made during her college and post-college years), but the entire book is very readable and compelling, and it's really sad that it took so long for the author to find the kind of settled life that she deserved. (The title, by the way, comes from the section of the boo ...more
Jun 12, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
I did not expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. From the title, you might expect this to be the memoir of the daughter of a mortician or something similar. Instead, she uses a recurring theme of death to recount significant events in her life starting at age 8. The use of death is not morbid, but rather, builds to bring the author through a different kind of death altogether. I think that part is meant to be a surprise to the reader, so I won't elaborate. Suffice it to say this book is ver ...more
Karen Germain
Jul 07, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've managed to read a lot of memoirs about screwed up families, but I think this one takes the cake. I didn't know which parent to be more livid at. I cannot even imagine how Holloway managed a semi normal life after such a messed up childhood. On a side note, I found all of the funeral parlor stuff to be fascinating. Parts of this book are not for the faint of heart.
Oct 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Monica Holloway's funny but dark and disturbing memoir. One of the ten best books I have ever read, a book that is written so well Monica can make you laugh and cry in the same sentence. It was very hard to put down.
Carolyn Wesley
LOVED this book. heartbreaking and humorous. Writing style=perfect
Jun 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I pick up a new book, I am one of the few out there who literally read it cover to cover. When I say that, I truly mean it. I read the inside book jacket and the blurbs from bestselling authors on the back. One sentence that truly sums up this book is by author Barbara Abercrombie. She quotes "In the space of one sentence Monica Holloway can break your heart and make you laugh out loud at the same time." This truly sums up what it is like reading this memoir.

Driving With Dead People is Moni
Sandra O'Briant
Dysfunctional isn't a strong enough word to describe the narrator's family. Something is wrong with little Monica, but it doesn't play out until you're two-thirds of the way into the book. The story started slow and stayed slow through half of the book, but picked up speed when Monica reaches high school. Before that her childhood was dominated by a violent father and a passive-aggressive mother. Her family was not poor-there were piano lessons and bikes and participation in extra-curricular act ...more
Jul 30, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
In Driving with Dead People Monica Holloway recounts her childhood-- her father's scary rages, her mother's detached way of dealing with the situation, her trashy extended family, her siblings' various reactions to growing up in a dysfunctional environment. Her parents divorced when Monica (the youngest) was an early teen, and her dad moved out, her mom moved out, and she and her next older sister raised themselves. Weird, huh? She did gain some stability from her best friend's family, who ran a ...more
Kathy Hiester
May 18, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You don’t have to read for long to see that the Holloways have some severe troubles. Monica might recognize her father's fixation with filming roadside accidents as bizarre but his problematic is the physical and emotional abuse that he heaves upon his family. Monica grows up in a family where everyone walks on eggshells in terror of being screamed at or humiliated in public. When her parents divorce, her father refuses to be involved in anything more than the divorce decree and custody agreemen ...more
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Monica Holloway is the critically acclaimed author of the memoirs "Cowboy & Wills" and "Driving With Dead People." She contributed to the anthology Mommy Wars, from which her essay Red Boots and Cole Haans was described by Newsday as brilliant, grimly hilarious. Holloway lives with her family in Los Angeles."
More about Monica Holloway...

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“The truth was that in the end, sad felt better than rage - a lot better. But rage came easier. Sad felt like the world was ending. (150)” 13 likes
“I was relieved in some weird way that the accident had actually occurred. It was a physical manifestation of what had already been going on inside the car. The outside now matched the inside - damaged beyond repair. (113) ” 11 likes
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