Monday, April 18, 2011

The Coffins Of Little Hope by Timothy Schaffert ~ review

The Coffins of Little Hope
About the book from Goodreads:

Timothy Schaffert has created his most memorable character yet in Essie, an octogenarian obituary writer for her family's small town newspaper. When a young country girl is reported to be missing, perhaps whisked away by an itinerant aerial photographer, Essie stumbles onto the story of her life. Or, it all could be simply a hoax, or a delusion, the child and child-thief invented from the desperate imagination of a lonely, lovelorn woman. Either way, the story of the girl reaches far and wide, igniting controversy, attracting curiosity-seekers and cult worshippers from all over the country to this dying rural town. And then it is revealed that the long awaited final book of an infamous series of YA gothic novels is being secretly printed on the newspaper's presses.
The Coffins of Little Hope tells a feisty, energetic story of characters caught in the intricately woven webs of myth, legend and deception even as Schaffert explores with his typical exquisite care and sharp eye the fragility of childhood, the strength of family, the powerful rumor mills of rural America, and the sometimes dramatic effects of pop culture on the way we shape our world.

My take on this book:
Esther Myles has written obituaries for her family owned town paper called the County Paragraph since dropping out of school in the eighth grade, her byline has always been S Myles. At the age of 83 she is years past retirement but is busier than she has ever been. She doesn't let her age bother her, she actually considers herself a part of a group in town she calls the death merchants, the people who are a necessary part of dealing with death, such as the undertaker, who by the way is 78, and the town florist who is 81, and the youngest of the group is the cemetery caretaker who is only 56.
A couple of things propelled the tiny little town into the spotlight. The first was when the County Paragraph's printing press was chosen to print a portion of the wildly popular but also banned series called Miranda and Desiree. Because the books were banned the publisher used tiny obscure printing companies to covertly print the novels., The second big bit of news was when a girl named Lenore went missing. Her mother Daisy worked for the printing press, and had taken up with a drifter she called "Elvis" a man who took ariel pictures of peoples farms. On the day that he up and leaves Lenore comes up missing as well. Because Daisy was such an unreliable person, people began to wonder if Daisy ever really had a daughter. When Daisy finally asks Essie to write Lenore's obituary, the obituary instead becomes a story of a missing girl, who may or may not have existed.

I always enjoy reading books that grasp the real flavor of the small town, and this one does just that. Just like most small towns there are always a few quirky characters who always add a bit of humor to any story.

I loved that the story is told thru the voice of Essie an 83 year old woman, whose first obituary was actually an essay about her mother who died while giving birth to her. There are several secondary story lines going on in the story such as the relationship between Tiffany and her mother Ivy, as well as the relationship between Tiffany and Doc, who stepped in to take care of his niece when her mother left. I found the preacher quite interesting , while he preached against the banned books, his wife secretly read them.

An intricate story, with no real closure at the end allowing the reader to reach their own conclusions.While not a compelling book that had to be read in one sitting, I still found it an enjoyable read.

I was provided a complimentary copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


  1. I like the fact that all the principals are well into their golden years; that obituary that she wrote for her mom sounds like it would be quite moving :)

  2. Looks like a story I'd really enjoy. I love the title, which I always judge a book by, lol.

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