- Fizzy Thoughts: Open Me

Open Me

Saturday, April 25, 2009


Open Me
Sunshine O'Donnell
June 2007
225 pages

I had high hopes for this one. The premise is so different:

A debut novel about a young girl at the center of the secret world of professional mourners, where women are trained extensively and paid handsomely to attend the funerals of strangers.

Mem is a wailer, a professional mourner hired to cry at funerals. One of the few remaining American girls in this secret, illegal profession, Mem hails from a long line of mourners, including her mother, a legendary master wailer hired for the most important funerals in her hometown of Philadelphia.

Though Mem is to eventually become a renowned wailer herself, she at first struggles with her calling. She is a girl who cannot make herself cry, and though her mother loves her fiercely, she must use ancient, emotionally abusive, cultlike rituals to train Mem to weep. When Mem emerges as the greatest wailer that the profession has ever seen, her infamy brings with it unwanted attention, especially from the authorities.

Interweaving poetic prose and artifacts spanning six thousand years and seven continents, Open Me is an utterly original novel about mothers and daughters, dark underworlds, and the play between fact and fiction.
(from bn.com)

I still think this is an interesting concept for a book. And Mem's story was fascinating. But I wanted more. More of her training, and her dreams, and more about the weirdness of life with wailers. I thought the book bogged down in the spots where the author switched to poetry and legend. The background felt disjointed and too ambitious. I would have liked more of a focus on the characters, and less on the creation of a mystical profession. More show, less tell.

But that's just me. Lately I'm finding myself drawn more to the characters in a story. I remember when I could never really pinpoint whether I preferred characters or plot...however, right now, I can definitely say...I'm all about the characters.

13 comment(s):

bkclubcare said...

and I must say, YOU are quite a character! Good review and I agree - interesting idea for a novel.

Liyana said...

This seems to be a day of firsts for me. Thanks for the recommendation!

bermudaonion said...

I agree, the premise of the book does sound fascinating.

Bookfool said...

I'm usually more interested in plot, but characterization is important enough that if I don't care about them, I usually end up saying something akin to, "Nyeh." This does sound like an interesting premise. Sorry it was disappointing.

Literate Housewife said...

I think the premise of this novel sounds wonderful, too. I'm sorry that it didn't have the "more" you were looking for. I know exactly what you mean about that.

Ladytink_534 said...

I've heard of professional mourners before but only in the vaguest sense. What an odd profession! Hmm, wonder why it's illegal? It sounds like this book should have been better edited but interesting nonetheless.

Belle said...

Definitely an interesting premise - professional mourners, so unusual.

Betty and Boo's Mommy said...

Oh, I love the premise of this one! Might have to give this a try.

Beth F said...

I like the premise of this too!

Dar said...

I agree, very interesting premise for a book. This sounds like something I'd like. Where do you find these kinds of books? lol.

Wrighty said...

I've never heard of this profession. It sounds so odd but very intriguing for a book. I would be interested in reading it too. It's too bad that it didn't all come together for you. I get so frustrated when there is that potential and it doesn't work out.

softdrink said...

Dar...this is what happens when I sloooooowly browse the shelves at the bookstore looking for something different. Sometimes it works, and sometimes, well...it doesn't.

Joanne said...

This idea sounds so interesting, sorry it didn't work out so well for you.

At first I thought this was another book "My Life With Corpses" by Wylene Dunbar - I swear it's the same cover.

In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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