The Coffins of Little Hope by Timothy Schaffert

I freely admit it. I was attracted to this book the instant I saw the cover. Then when I found out it was from Unbridled Books (which explains the cover!) And then, when I found out it was about an octogenarian obituary writer, well. That just sealed the deal.

Essie is, as I said, an octogenarian obituary writer, writing for her family’s small town newspaper. I loved Essie the moment she stepped onto the page. She’s feisty, an attribute I love in characters, but especially in octogenarian ones.The morbidity of being a obituary writer was just icing on the cake.

A young girl is reported to be missing, but no one is even sure she ever existed. The young girl is reported missing by her mother Daisy, stolen away by her aerial photography boyfriend, and Essie becomes mixed up in the mother’s life. Essie isn’t sure that the child, Lenore, is real either, or just a desperate plea for attention from a lonely woman. Doesn’t really matter; the story spreads like wildfire, leading their small family paper to become quite the big seller in parts far and wide. This part of the story turns slightly bizarre (and rather true to life) when cult worshipers and the curious got-nothing-better-to-dos show up at the mother’s doorstep.

Essie’s family has their own troubles. Doc, Essie’s grandson and editor of the paper, isn’t sure he wants to do this any more. He has raised his niece ever since she was little, when her mother abandoned her with Doc. She (the mother, I can’t remember her name) shows back up to reclaim her child, but of course, the child isn’t sure she wants to be reclaimed, briefly going to live with Essie.

This part of the story especially was fascinating to me. As a toddler, I was abandoned by my own mother to live with my grandparents. I chose to stay with them when she came to reclaim me many years later, so I found myself especially invested in this family and their story. And these characters, and this part of the story, were fantastic. They are all so feisty, so full of life, so energetic! And Schaffter has a deft eye for family dynamics. This dysfunctional family captured my heart in a special way. In such a special way, that I think I would have rather left out all that other stuff about Daisy and Lenore. The Coffins of Little Hope is described as ” an energetic story of characters caught in the intricately woven webs of myth, legend and deception” but I think part of that web fell apart every time the kidnapping story was at the forefront. Every time the story went back to Daisy, I felt torn from the story. But it all comes together when Essie is called upon to finally write Lenore’s obituary, yet for me, it almost fell apart. I enjoyed this book, mainly for Essie. The ending didn’t really provide me with much closure… it just felt like it ended.  But, like I said, I loved Essie, I loved her voice, her way of telling the story. It was fun to read and I definitely want to try more books by Timothy Schaffert.

The Coffins of Little Hope by Timothy Schaffert

  • Pub. Date: May 2011
  • Rated 3.5 out of 5
  • Publisher: Unbridled Books
  • Format: Hardcover , 272pp
  • ISBN-13: 9781609530402
  • ISBN: 1609530403
  • Source: Unbridled Books, through NetGalley. Thank you Unbridled Books!

5 thoughts on “The Coffins of Little Hope by Timothy Schaffert

  1. I've been wanting to read Schaffert for a couple years now but I haven't gotten around to it yet. The buzz about this latest volume adds urgency to the fire, though.

  2. I didn't really get distracted by the story of Lenore; it was another way to show life in that kind of community and the mindset that formed the characters of Doc, Tiff and Essie. I'll admit that in other hands, the idea of having three story lines going might not have worked for me but I liked Schaffert's writing so much that I went back and forth between them just fine.

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