BooksForKidsBlog

Monday, August 03, 2009

Rest in Peace: The Funeral Director's Son by Coleen Murtagh Paratore


To live. To love. To leave something better behind.

Three simple things to get yourself a spot in heaven.

It sounds simple, but you'd be surprised how people can screw things up. Most everyone who dies in Clover moves on without help from me. They live, they love, they leave something better behind. And so, when the ship comes, they're ready to go to good.

That's what I think Heaven is. Good.

But other people have trouble leaving. Anchors weigh them down. Something they didn't say. Something they didn't do. That's where I come in.

I've been helping the dead for a while now, but I made up my mind, I'm quitting.

Twelve-year-old Kip Campbell is the seventh Christopher Campbell, the only son of the town of Clover's undertaker, the presumed future director of Campbell & Sons Funeral Home. For now Kip is the "outside man." He mows the grass and sweeps the steps and parks the cars for big funerals. Beyond these mundane duties, though, Kip has inherited the family "gift," passed on to one of each generation, the ability to hear the newly dead speak and to help them resolve the ties to life and move on to the good.

But Kip's wish is to move on himself, to leave Clover behind in a few years and to move into the wider world. But like the newly dead he hears inside his head, Kip is tied to Clover by his desire to please his kind parents and grandmother, and his worries about the family finances, now falling into dire straits by the competition with a big box funeral franchise which is taking away their generations-old business.

And then there's Billy Blye, lying dead downstairs amid what Kip calls the "Frankenstein stuff," whose voice Kip hears, pleading for his help in slipping the anchors of his life.

Kip was always afraid of Billy in life--a scary old hermit with one eye and a loud, angry voice who once chased him away from his property when Kip's kite got tangled up in the roses on his fence. Why would Billy Blye turn to Kip now? What was the secret that he concealed in life and from which in death he begs to be freed?

Almost against his will, Kip is drawn into this mystery. Billy's voice keeps coming to him, telling him about someone or something called "Hook" who can reveal the secret, but the only Hook Kip can connect to Billy is his old parrot. When Kip slips into the dead man's cottage, he finds the bird still in his cage, muttering strange things over and over. "Akilder. Akilder," and "Fergimmecarry. "Fergimmecarry."

Unraveling the sense behind the mysterious drowning of of Billy and, ten years before, his wife Kerry, becomes Kip's task in Coleen Murtagh Paratore's The Funeral Director's Son (Simon & Schuster, 2008), a quest which takes him deep into the past life of the coastal town of Clover and deep into the secrets of the human heart as well. Although Kip has his gift and the good luck of a four-leaved clover talisman on his side, in the end he still has the mystery of his own future left to unravel. Although Kip finds some peace in his new understanding of the place of his family in the fabric of his hometown, his own conclusion remains yet to be written.

Paratore's characters and setting are strong and engaging. Kip himself is both a believable twelve-year-old, concerned with getting money for camp with his friends and impressing the pretty new girl in his class, and an enigmatic figure, gifted beyond his years with a psychic connection to the afterlife which he wears comfortably most of the time. For those readers who are unsatisfied, still wishing to know what Kip will do with his gift, luckily Paratore has a sequel, The Funeral Director's Son: 'Kip Campbell's Gift, forthcoming in August.

Paratore is also the author of the popular The Wedding Planner's Daughter (The Wedding Planner's Daughter #1) and its sequels also known jointly as The Cupid Chronicles (The Wedding Planner's Daughter #2.).

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