Good Mourning by Elizabeth Meyer (Amazon link)
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Description: In this funny insightful memoir, a young socialite risks social suicide when she takes a job at a legendary funeral chapel on New York City's Upper East Side. Good Mourning offers a behind-the-scenes look at one of the most famous funeral homes in the country where not even big money can protect you from the universal experience of grieving. It's Gossip Girl meets Six Feet Under, told from the unique perspective of a fashionista turned funeral planner.
Elizabeth Meyer stumbled upon a career in the midst of planning her own father's funeral, which she turned into an upbeat party with Rolling Stones music, thousands of dollars worth of her mother's favorite flowers, and a personalized eulogy. Starting out as a receptionist, Meyer quickly found she had a knack for helping people cope with their grief, as well as creating fitting send-offs for some of the city's most high-powered residents. Meyer has seen it all: two women who found out their deceased husband (yes, singular) was living a double life, a famous corpse with a missing brain, and funerals that cost more than most weddings. By turns illuminating, emotional and darkly humorous, Good Mourning is a lesson in how the human heart grieves and grows whether you're wearing this season's couture or drug-store flip-flops. (from Goodreads)
Why I Picked This Book: I've enjoyed books about the death industry in the past but haven't read any from the perspective of a funeral home.
My Impression: I'm not sure where to start with this one so I think I'll break it down by good, bad, and overall.
The Good: Elizabeth's genuine concern for her clients really felt genuine. Her primary purpose really was to make sure the deceased was treated respectfully and that the family was able to honor their loved one in the best and most fitting way possible. I also thought that this was an interesting way of working through her grief after the death of her father while actually bringing comfort to other families. The pacing was good and even at the times when the book was making me cringe I never stopped turning pages. And I loved Bill. Can Bill please write a book?
The Bad: Any time the subject of money came up I spent most of my time cringing or suppressing an eye roll (it's hard to read when you're rolling your eyes). She spends quite a lot of time being horrified that they're actually worried about money in the business. She's shocked that some of her fellow employees seem to be in it for the money and are worried about their paychecks. She seems completely oblivious to the fact that most of her coworkers are using their income to keep a roof over their head, lights on, and refrigerators stocked. She calls her salary as a receptionist basically doing charity work for the Upper East Side. While her fellow receptionist, Monica, is incredibly unprofessional both in her actions towards Elizabeth and her actions towards the clients, I could understand why she wouldn't necessarily warm to Elizabeth.
Elizabeth also is appalled when clients start tried to haggle prices for funeral services and caskets or look for ways to save money. She questions how people are able to do this when they are in the middle of grieving their loved one. While Elizabeth was able to plan her father's funeral without any consideration of cost it never truly seems to occur to her that not everyone is able to do that and while you want to give your spouse/parent/child the best you can if the money isn't there there isn't a magical way to make it appear.
Aside from the money issue I don't feel like I learned that much about the funeral industry. This book was much more about Elizabeth's journey than the funeral business itself and while there mentions of different funerals or different methods I wanted more detail.
Overall: This was an incredibly readable book. The pacing was good and never once did I feel like it was dragging. However, this book focused more on the narrator than the industry and it wasn't quite what I was looking for.
Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Probably not. While the pacing was good I don't feel like I really connected with Elizabeth and there was just too many minor issues that irritated me.
Would I Recommend this Book?: Probably not. If you're interested in gossip column meets funeral home than it's definitely worth reading but you might want to pick this up from the library instead of buying it.