Better Get to Livin' by Sally Kilpatrick
Rating: Very Good
Description: Presley Cline has put aside dreams of Hollywood stardom and come back to Ellery, Tennessee to work in a beauty shop. In truth, the dreams in question were more her mother's than her own. Presley may have the face and body of a movie icon, but she lacks the stomach for it. Yet a loving relationship and normal home life seem almost as unattainable as an Oscar. Being able to see and speak to dead people certainly isn't helping. Presley's first job, beautifying "clients" at the Anderson Funeral Home, is quite a change from working on a movie sest. The place is home to dozens of hosts all hoping that Presley can help them move on - and also one very much alive owner, Declan Anderson. Like Presley, Declan is caught between following family expectations and his own aspirations. But with a little meddling from loved ones and locals - both living and dead - Presley is starting to see that life is too short not to be who you want to be, and the most rewarding journeys involve some unexpected detours... (from Goodreads)
Genre: Fiction/Romance - Contemporary
Why I Picked This Book: To be honest I have no idea. I think I was in a NetGalley requesting fog and didn't realize what I was doing. I do like ghosts so maybe that had something to do with it?
My Impression: Going in I had no expectations about this story. I haven't read anything by Sally Kilpatrick before, I hadn't seen many reviews for it, so I was kind of expecting your typical small town romance with maybe an extra dash of quirk.
Turns out there is so much more! For one thing I have a hard time classifying this as a straight up romance. There is a romance but it doesn't take up much of the book - especially in the first 2/3. For starters this isn't your regular fictional small town with streets lined with cute little shops and friendly people. This is an actual small town with financial struggles, people with old grudges (though there are plenty of nice people too), and warring funeral homes (okay this isn't so ordinary - or at least I don't think it is). Declan, the reluctant director of one of the funeral homes, is relatively respected but hasn't quite lived down his high school nickname of "Cold Fingers" which is seriously killing his dating chances in Ellery. But that doesn't bother him too much until Presley Cline blows back into town. Presley has more than enough baggage of her own. She's living someone else's dreams, dealing with a very public humiliation, and trying to come to terms with hoer own hangups and identity. Throw in the being able to see and communicate with ghosts and a self-destructive mother and Presley is hanging on to her sanity for dear life.
After natural and man made disasters throw Presley and Declan together the story really gets going but the book focuses more on the two of them finding their way to who they want to be than on romance though we do discover pretty early on that they've know each other for years and each had a crush on the other. The side characters are wonderful. There are a number that would have been so easy to cast as a straight up villain but at no time does Kilpatrick take that route. With one exception the characters are fully fleshed out, sometimes selfish, sometimes incredibly kind people. I loved the feel of family in the funeral home even though the Andersons' didn't always realize how much they leaned on each other.
The structure is interesting as Declan and Presley share the narration in alternating chapters. Their POVs and voices are so different that I never had any trouble telling who was who and I enjoyed being able to get to know them equally. I was split on the ending - some stuff I had figured out, some stuff left me with my mouth hanging open but I enjoyed it all.
This was my first book by Sally Kilpatrick but I don't see it being my last. She brings a unique voice and unusual well drawn characters to a pretty typical setting and it comes out refreshing and completely entertaining.
Would I Read More From this Author/Series?: Definitely! This is the 3rd book set in Ellery, Tennessee and I definitely plan on picking those up and can't wait to see what comes out next.
Would I Recommend this Book?: Yes! There's so much going on here that I think even readers who don't typically reach for romance would find something to enjoy in this one!