I read Bonnie Grove's Talking to the Dead, a psychological drama, in one sitting. Then I put it down and cried for a while. This is not my normal reaction to a book. Reading an entire novel in one sitting happens occasionally. Crying afterwards, almost never. It takes a very special book to move me that deeply.
We meet Kate, the central character, at the wake following her husband's funeral. And we are only a few pages into the book when her dead husband starts talking to her. Already devastated, she unravels almost entirely, pushed by the insistent whisperings. And why is there a large hole in her memories?
In her search to understand what is happening to her, she has to peel back layers of lies and of the memories that have gone AWOL. It is not an easy road and the things she discovers along it are disturbing. She gets help, both solicited and unsolicited, from a variety of friends, relatives, and therapists, some of them highly entertaining, but all, or most, very human. And she needs the help more and more as her dead husband's voice becomes vicious.
Grove is a master at presenting searing emotion without becoming maudlin. Her prose is clear and fresh, sometimes elegant without ever being pretentious. And even in the midst of devastation, there are frequent flashes of humor. “Funerals exist so we can close doors we'd rather leave open. But where did we get the idea that the best approach to facing death is to eat Bundt cake?”
Kate is a flawed and broken heroine, and things definitely have to get worse before they get better, but it is not difficult to root for her in her struggle to get glued back together. The characterizations in the book are for the most part well done, although I must confess to being a little perplexed by Kate's sister on occasion.
I don't like rating with stars, but I am glad I bought my own copy of this book and I can promise you I will not be donating this one to the library's used book store. I want it close so I can reread it.