Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Review: "A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents" by Liza Palmer

After hearing buzz about this book in the blogosphere I decided to check it out from my local library (thanks, NCPL!). To tell you the truth, I haven't actually read any reviews of it yet, but the title, description, and cover piqued my interest.

Five years ago, when her mother died suddenly in a car accident, Grace Hawkes walked out of the funeral and out of the lives of her family. She's ignored phone calls and e-mails, and has settled herself into a new life, one devoid of emotion and completely empty of her past. She's dating one of the bosses at her work, and she's with him because he's safe and doesn't require much from her. All of this changes one day when she receives a phone call from her sister Abigail. Abigail tells her that their father has had a stroke and is in the ICU and asks Grace to come down and see him. Grace is still angry at her father, who cheated on her mother countless times and eventually abandonded the family altogether 22 years ago, and she sees no reason why she should reutine with him now. Grace's siblings insist that it is time for her to rejoin the family, and before she knows it she is with her brothers and sister at her father's bedside.

Everything changes when Connie, her father's second wife, and Dennis, Connie's grown son, arrive at Ray's bedside as well. Connie presents herself to be the perfect little wife, devastated about her husband's illness, but Grace, Huston, Abigail and Leo find out that there is more to her than what's on the surface. What follows is the often exciting, and also heartbreaking story of how the Hawkes family comes together at their father's hour of need.

For the first chapter or so I was doubtful that the character of Grace would grow on me. She seemed so cold and distant with her siblings, despite the fact that not one of them had done anything to make her shut down emotionally. As new layers of Grace are revealed to the reading audience you can't help but feel sympathy for this woman who had lost so much and has been living an empty life devoid of emotion. In fact, Grace turned out to be one of my favourite personalities in the book, and I'm glad that I gave her a chance to reveal herself.

Despite A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents' dark themes (death, loss, illness, abandonment), I loved this book and sailed right through it. The various serious issues were handled with a delicate touch that did them justice, yet were not overly depressing. The story was exciting, and just when you thought that it was over, a new twist revealed itself. The characters, specifically the four Hawkes siblings, were wonderful, and I couldn't help but love each and every one of them as they bonded together in their time of need. The smaller supporting characters were endearning as well, especially Abigail's 4-year-old twins. The ending? Wholly satisfying, and even though I could guess what was coming more or less, it didn't make me any less happy when everything came together. I will be adding Liza Palmer's other books to my wish list and hope to get to them sooner, rather than later.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Recommended to: Fiction fans everywhere
Challenges: 2010 100+ Reading Challenge, New Author Challenge 2010, 2010 Support Your Local Library Challenge


  1. I have this one on my wish list for in the future. Your review was great, and it sounds really good; thanks Jonita.

  2. I won this recently and am looking forward to reading it. Glad to hear you liked it too.

    I read Seeing Me Naked by the same author and really liked that one too.

  3. The title definitely got my attention, but yours is the first review I've read. I think I'm going to reserve this one at the library as well...thanks!