Sunday, October 18, 2009

~Book Review - Driving With Dead People by Monica Holloway~

From the back cover:

Small wonder that, at nine years old, Monica Holloway develops a fascination with the local funeral home. With a father who drives his Ford pickup with a Kodak movie camera sitting shotgun just in case he sees an accident, and whose home movies feature more footage of disasters than of his children, Monica is primed to become a morbid child.

Yet in spite of her father's bouts of violence and abuse, her mother's selfishness and prim denial, and her siblings' personal battles and betrayals, Monica never succumbs to despair. Instead, she forges her own way, thriving at school and becoming fast friends with Julie Kilner, whose father is the town mortician.

She and Julie prefer the casket showroom, where they take turns lying in their favorite coffins, to the parks and grassy backyards in her hometown of Elk Grove, Ohio. In time, Monica and Julie get a job driving the company hearse to pick up bodies at the airport, yet even Monica's growing independence can't protect her from her parents' irresponsibility, and from the feeling that she simply does not deserve to be safe. Little does she know, as she finally strikes out on her own, that her parents' biggest betrayal has yet to be revealed.

Throughout this remarkable memoir of her dysfunctional, eccentric, and wholly unforgettable family, Monica Holloway's prose shines with humor, clear-eyed grace, and an uncommon sense of resilience. Driving with Dead People is an extraordinary real-life tale with a wonderfully observant and resourceful heroine.

My Thoughts:

While reading this, I had to keep reminding myself that it was a memoir. The horrific things that Monica's father did to his times I shuddered thinking "How did she live through it?" Monica's father was a total bastard (pardon my french) and was extremely cruel. He verbally and physically assaulted Monica, her mom and her brother and 2 sisters on a daily basis. Poor Monica wondered all of the time "why does Dad hate us so much?"

Needless to say, after she and her siblings grew up, they suffered the effects of abuse; her brother Jamie was an alcoholic; her sister Jo Ann was suicidal and her other sister Becky was in denial.

Monica's mother left her abusive husband while Monica was in high school. She went back to college and met another man. As Monica got older, her mother became less and less available to her and her siblings, emotionally and physically.

While I enjoyed reading this memoir, reading about Monica's father was difficult at times. I admire her for writing Driving With Dead People. Although her story is emotional, it is also enriched with her stories of childhood friends, teenage years, and overcoming her traumatic past only to shine as an adult.

Four Stars

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Simon Spotlight Entertainment (March 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416940022

For more information about the author, visit


Wall-to-wall books said...

Hey, I read this book!
I think I gave it 4 stars too.

You've read "The Glass Castle" haven't you? Now that is a 5 star memoir!

Eleni said...

Sounds like an intersting read, great review!

Darlene said...

While memoirs like this are usually difficult to read I almost always enjoy them. Thanks for bringing this one to my attention Missy.

Jenny Girl said...

I give you a lot of credit for sticking with this one because I certainly wouldn't it. Never ceases to amaze me how mean people can be to each other. Excellent review.


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