Driving With Dead People: A Memoir by Monica Holloway (Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 2007).
I found this book in my local thrift store, hardback, for $1.00. I remember when it had come out, and thinking that it looked good, if a bit gimmicky. But for one dollar, who cared? The gimmick factor was there to some extent: the young narrator had spent time with a childhood friend whose family owned a mortuary. She and her friend would lie in the coffins for fun and pretend they were dead. Later, she would actually witness dead bodies being embalmed and drive around in the family’s hearse.
That’s interesting, I thought, as I began to read, but I wondered how far you could really go with something like that. But that’s exactly it: the mortuary/dead people aspect of the book—though it does serve as a loose through-line—is never the focus of the memoir. Instead, it’s the narrator’s relationship with her family, particularly her father (who drives all over their small Ohio town videotaping car wrecks and gruesome accidents) that cranks up the book’s tension. There’s also a family betrayal that Holloway gradually uncovers that makes the book a true page-turner right up until the last page. As the author's website puts it: "This is ultimately a memoir detailing her bizarre, often funny and ultimately terrifying life growing up in a small Midwestern town." But it's so much more than that.
“Dad had pulled some horrendous stunts, but when he fucked with Mom’s love of the Great Smoky Mountains, he’d gone too far.”
the narrator’s acting career in L.A., her little blue motorcycle, the many 1970s pop culture references (The Carpenters, Mrs. Beasley, The Beverly Hillbillies, Polaroid Instamatic), her sister's memories presented in italics as her own
I fell in love with this narrator. She’s funny and strong and ‘effed up and I want her to be my friend.