Open Me

Sunshine O'Donnell, Author
Sunshine O'Donnell, Author . MacAdam/ Cage $23 (227p) ISBN 978-1-59692-204-4 ISBN 978-1-59692-236-5
Hardcover - 230 pages - 978-1-84982-204-6
Open Ebook - 978-0-385-67307-5
Paperback - 230 pages - 978-1-59692-236-5
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-385-66572-8
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A trudging fascination with ancient rites hampers this disappointing debut novel about Mem, a professional girl mourner in contemporary Philadelphia paid top dollar to wail at local funerals. The women in Mem's family have been grieving for money since ancient Roman times, passing down to their daughters the art of crying on command. Though the profession is illegal, Mem's family persists with cultish zeal, with mothers training their children to cry by verbally assaulting them and threatening to abandon them. Mem distinguishes herself as a stunning wailer, and as her bookings increase, so does the level of interest from law enforcement. The necessity of the harsh training Mem receives is never questioned, nor is the demand for professional mourners in modern society made plausible. Though O'Donnell's prose is deft and accomplished, it suffers in service of an improbable premise that's short on plot and long on overstated themes of ritual, motherhood and feminine sexuality. Unfortunately, O'Donnell neither demystifies the past nor illuminates the peculiar present she's created. (June)

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