Author: Melissa Marr
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books):
“Three sips to mind the dead . . .
Rebekkah Barrow never forgot the attention her grandmother Maylene bestowed upon the dead of Claysville, the small town where Bek spent her adolescence. There wasn’t a funeral that Maylene didn’t attend, and at each one Rebekkah watched as Maylene performed the same unusual ritual: She took three sips from a silver flask and spoke the words ‘Sleep well, and stay where I put you.’
Now Maylene is dead, and Bek must go back to the place she left a decade earlier. She soon discovers that Claysville is not just the sleepy town she remembers, and that Maylene had good reason for her odd traditions. It turns out that in Claysville the worlds of the living and the dead are dangerously connected; beneath the town lies a shadowy, lawless land ruled by the enigmatic Charles, aka Mr. D. If the dead are not properly cared for, they will come back to satiate themselves with food, drink, and stories from the land of the living. Only the Graveminder, by tradition a Barrow woman, and her Undertaker—in this case Byron Montgomery, with whom Bek shares a complicated past—can set things right once the dead begin to walk.
Although she is still grieving for Maylene, Rebekkah will soon find that she has more than a funeral to attend to in Claysville, and that what awaits her may be far worse: dark secrets, a centuries-old bargain, a romance that still haunts her, and a frightening new responsibility—to stop a monster and put the dead to rest where they belong.”
Thoughts: Melissa Marr’s first adult novel is exactly what one would expect from this beloved author. Graveminder is filled with fully-realized characters, an intriguing, otherworldly premise, strong execution and plenty of human drama. Rebekkah, Byron, and even Mr. D are fascinating characters brought together by an even more interesting contract. In Graveminder, Ms. Marr takes the idea of free will and turns it on its head.
Small towns are known for being unusual, but the minute the reader is introduced to Claysville, one knows that this particular town takes quirky to an entirely new level. Hinted at with a word or two, a description or, later, an entire scene, Ms. Marr builds the suspense by slowly exposing the mystery behind Claysville’s unique approach to burials and the dead. On the surface, it seems charming and utterly respectful to take care of all of the graves, to stay home after dark, to treat the dead as well as the living. Yet, the reader is in no doubt that some other force, creepy and mysterious, is behind the traditions, no matter how well-meaning they are.
Rebekkah and Byron are two characters forced to deal with something that neither one is quite prepared to handle. The tension that exists between the two creates great drama and does an excellent job of drawing the reader’s attention away from the true mystery. In addition, their story is rather tragic, as both are forced into roles that neither one expects or truly wants. They truly have no choice in anything, including with whom they fall in love. It is an interesting take on the idea of fate and destiny.
Never one to shy away from darker elements of human and non-human nature, Ms. Marr plays to her strengths in Graveminder. Told with her characteristic simple but vivid and very effective narration, Graveminder is as spooky and dark as one would expect. Her unusual take on death makes for an interesting story that does not follow any particular myth. Adult fans of the Wicked Lovely series will not be disappointed.
Thank you to Chelsey Emmelhainz from HarperCollins for my review copy!