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Rules for Being Dead

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  207 ratings  ·  49 reviews

It's the late 1960s in McKinney, Texas. At the downtown theater and the local drive-in, movies—James Bond, My Fair Lady, Alfie, and Dr. Zhivago—feed the dreams and obsessions of a ten-year-old Clarke who loves Audrey, Elvis, his family, and the handsome boy in the projector booth. Then Clarke loses his beloved mother, and no one will tell him how she died. No one will tell

Kindle Edition, 280 pages
Published May 12th 2020 by Blair
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Average rating 3.88  · 
Rating details
 ·  207 ratings  ·  49 reviews

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Tucker  (TuckerTheReader)
[Image TK]
Many thanks to Blair Books for the free copy in exchange for an honest review

I read this book in my latest booktube video which you can click here to watch it or skip to 0:29 to here my thoughts on this book.

Written mini-review

Putting this one down because it’s not my cup of tea. If you’re looking for a good historical fiction/ghost mystery, I recommend checking this one out

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In reading, there are some titles that catch your eye, and then there are some titles that cause your head to spin around and grab the book. Rules for Being Dead is just an exceptional title, and the story within lives up to the title. There’s also the cover of this book that had me waxing nostalgic, with the black and white picture of a drive-in in probably the 1960s, the setting of the story. There’s an old black and white movie quality to the photograph and an orange sky, with a streak of wha ...more
Nov 19, 2020 rated it liked it
The cover attracted me immediately. I’m a huge cinema buff and who can resist the retro appeal of a drive in movie theater. And then some key description words jumped out also, like ghosts, coming of age story, mystery and, of course, movies. So I figured it might be worth checking out, even having never heard of the author.
So first thing’s first…the book does deliver on every aspect of the description. It is a coming of age story featuring a ghost who doesn’t know how it got dead (mystery) and
Sep 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5...Beautifully written book. A story about the pain of loss, fear, redemption , forgiveness but ultimately love.
This was a wonderful story. It's sad and quite heart breaking at times, but I really loved the characters. It is a kind of mystery. Told from multiples POVs, the ghost of a forlorn dead mother, a child struggling to come to terms with the loss of his mother, and various other.

The writing is beautiful. I loved the way the author characterized the mind of Clarke. He is a beautiful little boy struggling to use his love of movies to help him solve the mystery surrounding his mothers. death.

Often we
Aug 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Kim Powers combines pain and humor in this coming of age story in Texas in the 60s. Told in multiple points of view, he examines love and heartache in a family beset with tragedy. Highly recommend this book. It will make you chuckle and shed a tear.
Philip Wallace
Sep 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a highly compelling novel that defies genre. At first glance, it’s so easy to think of it as another “Lovely Bones” story, but it incorporates different twists and turns. I especially love the attention to detail related to pop culture and the mores of the era.
Chris Neuhaus
Aug 06, 2020 rated it liked it
Rules for Being Dead by Kim Powers is a story about a boy named Clarke Perkins and his journey to find meaning in life and feel whole after the mysterious death of his mother. The story takes place in a small town in Texas during the 1960’s. Clarke is a young and precocious boy who spends his days at the local movie theater, the Ritz, watching several films such as James Bond, Dr. Zhivago, The Pied Piper, Alfie, and My Fair Lady. When Clarke’s mother mysteriously passes away, Clarke is left with ...more
Oct 19, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Here I am in the minority again. The story started off well and very interesting. Clarke and Corey, elementary age boys, live with their father and mother. One day the father comes home to find the mother dead. The boys are never told why or how the mother has died and are not taken to the funeral. They live in the realm of the movies of the 60s, going to the Ritz theater to watch the new releases and get lost in the world of Hollywood. Clarke wants to know how his mother died; he has his suspic ...more
Aug 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Kim Powers's haunting and spellbinding novel RULES FOR BEING DEAD reads like an intoxicating blend of the best of Shirley Jackson, Alice Sebold and Fannie Flagg. But Powers has created an original novel that is both a tender coming-of-age tale and a fascinating mystery that builds to a nail-biting climax.

Set in a small Texas town in 1966, the novel begins with the suspicious death of Creola Perkins, an unhappily married 44-year-old grade-school teacher, wife to alcoholic dreamer L.E. and mother
In the late 1960s in McKinney, Texas ten-year-old Clarke and his brother, Corey escapes to the local theaters to watch movies. They use the movies as a way to fuel their dreams and cope with the recent death of their mother. The boys lose their beloved mother. but, no one will them how she died. And no one has told their mother, Creola, how she died either. She is floating around trapped between life and death. She spends her days watching her family and trying to figure out her final moments. C ...more
Apr 18, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
That was a good novel, maybe a bit slow at times, but plenty to like.
The story is set in 1960s Texas, and we slowly explore the aftermath of and unravel the circumstances of the death of Creola, a teacher in her 40s, a wife and mother of two boys. She is actually our main first person narrator - hovering invisibly above the town and observing and trying to piece her final days together - along with her 10 year old Clarke through his journal. We also more rarely read third person narratives givin
Kristi Lamont
Feb 10, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I knew there was a reason I had this on my "priority read" shelf. And it's not just because one of my lifetime best friends lived in McKinney, Texas, for decades.

While that might have had just a _little_ to do with it, the fact of the matter is I am a sucker for coming of age in small-town Texas stories. Always have been, always will be. (I'm looking at you, Larry McMurtry.)

While this book deals with a lot of very, very serious subjects--not the least of which is elementary school-aged children
Jul 16, 2020 rated it liked it
Powers does a wonderful job of giving us a family drama surrounding the mysterious death of the mother of two preteen boys. The work is often narrated by the dead mother who can't remember the circumstances of her death, although she is able to remember times up to her demise as well as the future, one of the rules of being dead. The setting of the characters in the world of the early 6o's in a small Texas town is so evocative of the time. The characters are true to life. Although it is great to ...more
Apr 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Warm and moving memoir - highly recommend!

Beautifully written in multiple voices, this memoir is a warm and moving tale of a difficult childhood in mid-60s smalltown Texas. A graceful blend of literary fiction, murder mystery, coming of age, finding one’s sexual orientation, film nostalgia, and magical realism, the story unfolds as a 9-year old boy tries to solve the mystery of his mother’s recent unexplained death. The setting is evocative of contemporary pop culture in a small Texas town, symp
Jan 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
I love novels that are written from different points of view, such as epistolary novels, historical fiction that covers generations, or novels with multiple narrators. This book is written in the first person, from the point of view of several characters -- a woman, her husband, her two sons, her rival, and her best friend. The characters are well-drawn with distinct voices, and their points of view overlap and build the story together. That story is centered on Creola, a mother and wife who die ...more
Chanda Spaulding
Jul 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I won a copy of this book through a goodreads giveaway. The book had a slow start and I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. The author did spend some time introducing characters and letting the readers get to know them. I really liked how the story was told through the eyes of the different characters as well. This book was also sad and tugged at the heart strings. A father struggling to keep life together for his two young sons after their mother dies. The ending of the book was also fantastic ...more
Sep 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a wonderful book that gives you plenty to think about. Many misunderstandings lead to many sorrows. This book is about Clarke who is 10 and his brother Corey who is 7. Their mother Creola passes away on April Fools Day and no one will tell them how she died. Their Dad L.E., Rita his girlfriend and Maurice. It is set in the late 1960's in McKinney Texas and The Ritz, the local movie theatre plays a big part. It is told in alternating voices and is a very powerful story. From the book jac ...more
Laura C.
“God is getting me ready for something; the feathers on my back are twitching. I think that means He’s forgiving me.”

Maybe 3.5 because I love that line so much.

“I can’t protect him. That’s the toughest rule I’ve learned in the days since I died.”

“He thought you could tell a lot about a person from the way their shoulders sat.”

“His boys didn’t know how good they had it.” Sad. Amazing anyone survived their childhood.

“A mother knows these things, even when she’s dead.”

“Pussy Galore is dead. That’s
Maggie Preston
Nov 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was a very interesting read. Wife and mother Creola has died. How, she's not quite sure and we know that because she is hanging around in the hereafter to both figure it out and watch over her two young sons. It's strange to think of a ghost not knowing everything instantly upon death but it gave the story a different spin than the usual "ghost story." As a reader, you felt for Creola - she felt the loss of her life because she died young and unfulfilled, but because she could not be there ...more
Jul 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Kim Powers' Rules for Being Dead is a book that transcends any synopsis. It's a book that needs to be read, explored, experienced.

Clarke is a 10-year-old boy on the cusp of adolescence, learning about his sexuality, and his mother dies mysteriously. This book could be maudlin, but a quirky cast of characters and a captivating setting that itself functions as a character elevates this book.

Many thanks to the writer, publisher, and, Edelweiss+ for providing me with a copy of this book. All thought
Pat Dupuy
Oct 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A woman's death becomes a tragicomedy of errors as family tries to "protect" her sons. Good intentions do more harm than good. There is a mystery surrounding her death and her older boy, Clarke, with all the wisdom of his ten years decides he knows what happened and will find the evidence. His mother's spirit hovers as she tries to remember what happened to her. Slowly, she regains memories and the confusion starts to subside. This is an engaging story of heartbreak and humor, and a wonderful ti ...more
Eydie sanders
Sep 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh my gosh! This book! I can honestly say that it's been a LONG time since I raced through a book like this. It was amazing, perfect, sad, funny, and so deep. Heartbreaking and an ultimate story of the love of a mother for her children, their love for her, and how, in the end, love is all that remains. All that matters. I cannot recommend this book highly enough! I would give it ten stars if I could! ...more
Cathy Hodge
By the end, I liked this book. I am not really sure I can recommend this book to you unless you are ready for a dark & melancholy novel. Everyone in this book will break your heart: The children, Dad, new girlfriend, friends, teachers, dead Mom, sister, Everybody is in so much pain. The writing in this book is Stellar. Simply spectacular "Point-Of-View" complex emotions and growth for all of the characters. This story is compelling, nostalgic, and heartbreaking. ...more
Oct 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wasn't quite sure where this book was going at first, but it soon became a page turner with lots of twists and turns. I thought the author did a good job of imagining what life would be like after death and the toll it takes on a family who loses a loved one. To keep it light there are some humorous parts as well and makes this book a very well rounded read in that you get to know the characters and their pain and struggles. I don't think that anyone will be disappointed with this book! ...more
Aug 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book has so many things I love. It’s told with heart and emotion. It’s very well written. It’s told in various characters perspective. It’s about relationships. It has good overcoming evil. It has a child as one of the main narrators. It has complicated and many dimensional characters. It has humor and provoked laughter. It provoked tears. It is warm and tender and charming. Read it!
Patty Corwin
Aug 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unique and very interesting book. A woman dies and finds herself a spirit, roaming through the lives of her husband, her boys, and people involved in life. Oddly, she has no idea why or how she’s died. The story unravels her search for meaning, the her oldest boy’s reckoning with the fracture in his family. Very well written.
Dec 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When their mother dies suddenly, ten-year-old Clarke & his seven-year-old brother, Corey, must cope not just with loss, but with an unpredictable, alcoholic father. Narrated by several characters, this novel, by turns heartbreaking and amusing, adeptly captures a family in crisis. Powers creates a believable community where people fit together like cogs in a wheel, each one with a story.
Aug 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A 60's dysfunctional Texas family where everyone is an unreliable narrator including dead ghost mom. A heartbreakingly funny who-done-mom-in mystery with a walk down memory lane of old movies. Recommended for everyone who may have messed up something, somewhere in their lives that broke hearts. ...more
Aug 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Perfect blend of humor, reality, mystery, tragedy, and insight

I don’t like death {at least not other people’s}. I have read widely and grappled with many notions about afterlife. What I loved about this book is its embrace of the unknown, with humor, creativity, and tenderness.
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