NINE YEARS UNDER by Sheri Booker


Coming of Age in an Inner City Funeral Home
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A young woman makes a life out of working with death.

Working for an undertaker doesn't seem like it would be a popular choice for a summer job, but 15-year-old Booker (I Am the Poem, 2011, etc.) a writer, poet and photographer, figured if she were going to learn how to cope with the recent death of her beloved aunt, a funeral home might be the best place to do it. So began Booker's nine-year employment in the office of Wylie Funeral Home in West Baltimore. During her time there, Booker greeted hundreds of grieving inner-city families at the door and witnessed the strange and familiar faces of death. Some of them were her peers, gunned down in the tragic street violence plaguing that part of the country. Others were AIDS patients, suicide victims or elders in the church; the only discernible pattern that surfaced in the Wylie clientele was a desire for closure. Booker writes that she felt as though she “had already died a hundred deaths” by the time she was done working at the funeral home. By including plenty of less-heavy details about family life at the home and insights into an industry that most outsiders never consider until they have to, Booker's memoir remains mostly lighthearted and true to a teenage girl's perspective. With death as a backdrop, she fell in love with the funeral director's son, crashed the hearse and struggled with the illness of her mother. Despite the rich material, however, the writing reaches neither a moving depth nor comic height and feels at times as stiff and cold as the bodies in the embalming room.

An informative but occasionally too-dry behind-the-scenes look into the funeral industry and its reflection on contemporary society in inner-city Baltimore.

Pub Date: June 3rd, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-592-40712-5
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Gotham Books
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2013


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