From School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-When her father, older brother, and young sister died in a plane crash, Daralynn was at home, grounded for having been out fishing without her parents' permission. Her mother opens a beauty salon in their small Missouri town (population 402) and also prepares the hair of the deceased at the local funeral home. Clem Monroe suddenly appears on the scene, selling prepaid cremation plans to unsuspecting seniors and wooing Daralynn's Aunt Josie. She and many other residents are taken in by his schemes, giving him cash for a business that will never come to fruition. When Daralynn realizes that Clem is telling lies and acting suspiciously around town, she uses her journal to tell her father and siblings about the events, and the mystery is wrapped up in a unique way. The relationship between Daralynn and her mother, neither of whom has really dealt with her grief, is portrayed sensibly and tenderly. The fringe characters also shine; Clem is a slick con man, and Aunt Josie, free-spirited and kindhearted, understands Daralynn's prickly, hostile mother. The title of the book is serendipitous in many ways, and will leave readers with much to think about.-Alison Donnelly, Collinsville Memorial Public Library, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Dark humor melds with genuine pathos in Klise’s delightful and moving novel, set in Digginsville, Missouri, during the early 1970s. Twelve-year-old Daralynn Oakland is devastated when her father and siblings die in a plane crash. Angry and heartbroken, Daralynn’s mother gets a job as hairstylist at the local funeral parlor, while Daralynn comes up with the idea of a “living funeral,” where people can hear their own eulogy and have a chance to thank family and friends. The living funeral is a huge hit until Clem Monroe comes to town and starts a crematorium, undermining the funeral home’s business. Klise loves a mystery, which the charming yet sinister Clem provides in spades. She also uses letters, newspaper articles, and journal entries to excellent effect. However, it’s the journey through grief and the quirky characters (such as the senile grandma who takes to feeding and burping all of Daralynn’s dolls) that stay with the reader. This quiet story illuminates and celebrates the human need for connection beyond the grave. Grades 6-8. --Debbie Carton