Meet the residents of Mattagash, Maine, a dull backwater town rocked by scandal. seduction, mayhem, blackmail, and the only recorded case of beriberi on the entire North American continent!
This is the story of the trials that beset the McKinnons, the first family of Mattagash, Maine, when they try to arrange a funeral for the family matriarch. At the heart of the novel are the three McKinnon sisters: Marge, the one who is dying; Pearl, the one who left town; Sicily, the one who stayed–and Sicily’s fourteen-year-old daughter, Amy Joy, a bored and sexually promiscuous adolescent whose raging hormones lead her straight into the brawny arms of one Chester Lee Gifford, Mattagash’s blackest sheep. One of the most highly acclaimed debuts in the last decade.
The Funeral Makers is ‘a crazy rollicking whoop of a book, written with a poets’s sensibility and a deeply wacky down-home wisdom’ ~Lee Smith, author of Oral History
‘Pelletier writes with skill and grace, with a beautiful ear for human speech, awry affection for human folly and a wise, warm heart for human sadness.’
~Michael Malone, author of Handling Sin
‘Morbidly funny…satirizes, ridicules and maligns almost everything that’s sacred about American life.’ ~John Blades, Chicago Tribune
I picked this book up at the Naples, Maine library book sale this last summer. I like quirky and this is the queen of quirky! At first I thought it might be too quirky for me, I kept thinking I should be reading a Christmas mystery right now. But without me even knowing it Pelletier was reeling me into these wacky people’s lives and suddenly I couldn’t put it down! How she was able to get me invested in these nutty peoples lives just goes to show what a good writer she is!
A scene from Thelma and Marvin Jr’s ‘family camping experience’…
Hearing the faint gurgle, Thelma was the first to face the truth, coming suddenly awake and shouting to her husband, “Oh, my God! There’s a flood! The river has flooded!”
Junior Ivy was granted, for the second time in two days, an opportunity to save his entire family. He struggled to abandon the sleeping bag, managing to get one leg out, but catching the other pants leg in the sharp teeth of the zipper. Trying to leave the tent by means of one leg in a sleeping bag proved more difficult than vaulting drunkenly from the backseat of the Packard.
Thelma continued to scream, accompanied by Regina, who was now convince that she had indeed peed in her pants and was confused over what she considered her mother’s overreaction.
“We’ll drown!” Thelma prophesied. Regina covered her eyes and wept in embarrassment. She knew she had a bed-wetting problem, but had never thought of it as a danger to her family.
Junior stood up, hoping it would enable him to free his leg. At that moment Thelma, in an extreme case of hydrophobia, lurched for the flap opening and knocked her husband to the ground.
Junior pitched forward, pulling up the pegs of the tent and taking the unlucky structure with him into the blackness until he felt the ground stop him. Pain flickered in his right wrist, which had positioned itself in an unnatural angle in hopes of releasing the pants leg from the zipper and was not prepared for breaking a fall. The wrist snapped. Junior heard it. Knew what it meant. A broken right wrist to accompany his sprained left ankle. He held the right arm across his stomach to protect it as he worked clumsily with the left arm to free himself of the tent. Everyone was wide awake now and dealing with the situation with honesty.
Regina, who had checked her panties and found them to be reasonably dry, felt an apology was in order. She skulked off to the camper, where Randy and Cynthia stood sleepy, but round eyed in the door.
Because her husband had uprooted the tent, Thelma found herself on the open ground. The bedding was now being bombarded by rain, as well as the water running down the pathway. But there was no flood. She was quite sure of that now. She heard Junior moaning. The pole light the town had erected near the campsite provided little light in the downpour. Thelma could see what looked like a living mountain of canvas swaying to and fro in the wet night.
“Junior? Are you under there, honey?”
“Oh, my wrist,” moaned the hulk of canvas.
“God! You look so funny!” Thelma burst out, when her eyes finally adjusted to the contours and discovered what must be Junior’s form beneath. She was seized with laughter, uncommon in Thelma, who perceived excessive gaity as unladylike.
A crude syllogism surfaced in Junior’s mind. Major premise: He had broken his wrist when Thelma had stupidly shoved him in the dark and sent him sprawling with tent. Minor premise: He went sprawling because of his imbalance created by one pants leg being caught in the zipper, which happened because Thelma had shouted, “Flood!” Conclusion: Kill Thelma.
Junior dove, tent and all, in the direction of Thelma’s laughter, which had moved nearer to him. Thelma, who could see, stepped aside and let the bulky form hurl past her.She stopped laughing.
“What are you trying to do?” she asked her husband. “Don’t you want me to help you?”
“I’m trying to kill you, Thelma,” Junior shouted. “You can help if you want to.”
Hearing a savage, entirely primitive noise coming from the throat of the man she had married, Thelma ran for the camper, shoving the children back inside and locking the door. Junior shed the tent and ran after her, forgetting about the symbiotic sleeping bag that still clung to him. He fell face first into the remains of what had been, before the rain, a pleasant morning campfire…
Morbidly funny really sums up this tale! But in all the silliness, Pelletier hits on serious issues and deep sadness in the characters. This is one that you will chew on well after you finish reading it. This is the first book in the four book series: Mattagash.