Monday, February 2, 2015

by Kate Mayfield

"We've got a body." These four words were a constant within the Mayfield family. When you lived above a funeral home, you got used to death.
In 1959, Kate's father, Frank, moved everyone to Jubilee, Kentucky. This town was segregated and  nobody kept secrets, except the ones that were buried with them. Frank was an undertaker, the only other white one. Competition was fierce. But, Frank was a natty dresser. He always wanted to look his best. After all, he had to keep his reputation up. The people depended on him.
In those days, if somebody needed to go to the hospital or a doctor's office, they would call a funeral home. If you had an emergency, you knew who to contact. Consequently, telephones were installed in every room downstairs and upstairs. They rang all the time. It didn't matter the hour. When the death call came in, that was a sign for everybody in Kate's family to not make a sound and keep themselves invisible to what went on below. Silence was needed, because it meant respect.
Growing up in this kind of environment prepared Kate to celebrate both death and life.
The Undertaker's Daughter is truly wonderful storytelling. Kate's writing is beautiful. Her depictions of all the different characters, including her parents, linger in your mind throughout the entire book. She knows how to draw you in when describing a small, Southern town in the 1960s where racism is rampant and the community knows everybody's business.
I almost didn't want the book to end. It's a terrific read and keeps you absorbed.
Highly recommended.