Book Spotlight | “The Undertaker’s Assistant” by Amanda Skenandore

Posted Wednesday, 31 July, 2019 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

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I am a regular tour hostess for blog tours via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours whereupon I am thankful to have been able to host such a diverse breadth of stories, authors and wonderful guest features since I became a hostess! HFVBTs is one of the very first touring companies I started working with as a 1st Year Book Blogger – uniting my love and passion with Historical Fiction and the lovely sub-genres inside which I love devouring.

It has been a wicked fantastical journey into the heart of the historic past, wherein I’ve been blessed truly by discovering new timescapes, new living realities of the persons who once lived (ie. Biographical Historical Fiction) inasmuch as itched my healthy appetite for Cosy Historical Mysteries! If there is a #HistRom out there it is generally a beloved favourite and I love soaking into a wicked wonderful work of Historical Fiction where you feel the beauty of the historic world, the depth of the characters and the joyfulness in which the historical novelists brought everything to light in such a lovingly diverse palette of portraiture of the eras we become time travellers through their stories.

I received a complimentary of “The Undertaker’s Assistant” direct from the publisher Kensignton Books, in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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On why this story appealled to me:

When this novel first arrived in my postbox, I must admit, I was so dearly curious about it, I couldn’t help myself – I immediately dug into the first chapter and didn’t want to put it down! The timing was a bit off for me to conclude my readings of the story on its arrival but one thing was certain, I loved the style and humour of Ms Skenandore!

Being that I enjoy Historical Mysteries, Suspense and Thrillers – I thought I might enjoy a story set through the eyes of an embalmer who worked during an age and time where women were not seen as equal to men. Effie was attempting to prove her independence – not just as a female embalmer but as a freedwoman during the Restoration – the period of time after our Civil War in the 1800s. The premise of that kind of work being a passion for a woman seemed like an interesting prospect for a Historical novel to explore and I wanted to see what Skenandore would do with the plot and the character’s growth within Effie’s shoes.

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Book Spotlight | “The Undertaker’s Assistant” by Amanda SkenandoreThe Undertaker's Assistant
by Amanda Skenandore
Source: Publisher via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Set during Reconstruction-era New Orleans, and with an extraordinary and unforgettable heroine at its heart, The Undertaker’s Assistant is a powerful story of human resilience–and of the unlikely bonds that hold fast even in our darkest moments.

“The dead can’t hurt you. Only the living can.”Effie Jones, a former slave who escaped to the Union side as a child, knows the truth of her words. Taken in by an army surgeon and his wife during the War, she learned to read and write, to tolerate the sight of blood and broken bodies–and to forget what is too painful to bear. Now a young freedwoman, she has returned south to New Orleans and earns her living as an embalmer, her steady hand and skillful incisions compensating for her white employer’s shortcomings.

Tall and serious, Effie keeps her distance from the other girls in her boarding house, holding tight to the satisfaction she finds in her work. But despite her reticence, two encounters–with a charismatic state legislator named Samson Greene, and a beautiful young Creole, Adeline–introduce her to new worlds of protests and activism, of soirees and social ambition. Effie decides to seek out the past she has blocked from her memory and try to trace her kin. As her hopes are tested by betrayal, and New Orleans grapples with violence and growing racial turmoil, Effie faces loss and heartache, but also a chance to finally find her place.

Genres: Feminist Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781496713681

Also by this author: The Undertaker's Assistant

Published by Kensington Books

on 30th July, 2019

Format: Paperback ARC

Pages: 326

Published by: Kensington Books (@KensingtonBooks)

Converse via: #HistoricalFiction, #HistFic or #HistNov
as well as #TheUndertakersAssistant and #HFVBTBlogTours

Available Formats: Trade paperback and Ebook

About Amanda Skenandore

Amanda Skenandore

Amanda Skenandore is a historical fiction writer and registered nurse. Between Earth and Sky was her first novel. She lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. Readers can visit her website.

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why i am spotlighting “the undertaker’s assistant”:

Initially, when I first started reading the story, I felt hooked inside it – as it had such a clever rhythm and delivery; settling you immediately into Effie’s shoes and giving you a firm understanding of the surroundings she was about to embrace as the newest embalmer to work in New Orleans. Even her back-story was quite remarkable as she was taken in by a soldier and taught a trade she could use in the field as much as she could lateron in life as a profession. She was unique amongst her peers and she had a skill many would flinch to even study much less master.

Sometimes the hardest person to convince of your confidence is yourself – yet, Effie didn’t let people sway her that easily from her confident demeanor. Even if the words they spoke towards her were questioning and unkind, she refuted their sting by merely stating facts and keeping herself on the other side of their snark by not reacting to it directly. Effie is an unusual sort of woman – at the time of the Restoration (the years shortly after the Civil War) wherein most freedwomen might seek for work in industries without a taboo attached to them, Effie found she has a passionate calling to the mortuary arts. She’s an embalmer and bent on convincing her new employer that she not only has the brains for the job but she has the passion to do the job right.

Effie was finding life in New Orleans to be a unique series of challenges – her flatmates at the boarding house didn’t understand her ways or her peculiar avoidance of celebrations, like Christmas. They were used to people who liked to chit-chat and share their lives; for Effie, having been brought up in a house where conversation was avoided and where the normalcies of ordinary life were not observed in her home, she had grown into a woman without a lot of needs. She kept her mind focused on her work, even if by doing that she sometimes found herself led astray from the confines of the job itself. She even found herself motivated to listen to a political speaker even though up until that point, she had considered herself apolitical as she didn’t see how politics had any weight nor bearing on her own life. In essence, if Effie could live and work in the solitude of her trade without interaction with her peers, I felt she might have felt closer to being comfortable in this new city.

When it was shared about how she found comfort in collecting buttons it brought to focus how insightful her current boss was about what made her content and happy. The buttons themselves represented a calm within the storm as she collected them whilst she was helping her former employer on the battlefields of war. You can well imagine how difficult that would be to process for anyone much less for a young child who was still developing her understanding of the world. She was in a position of being safe with the soldier who took her under his wings to protect and raise her but it was a harder life than most could have lived.

Likewise, Effie was ahead of her peers in many regards – she didn’t put a lot of weight on the trivial moments of life and she found it hard to socialise. This is why I found it rather interesting she agreed to go out with her flatmates when they had decided to go off to a seance as it that seemed like the very last thing which would be of interest to Effie! Although, if truth were known, I think it was her troublesome thoughts about falling for a bloke who challenged her which was the greater cause of her acceptance for this outing moreso than the curiosity of what it would entail. Even during their journey to the event itself, you could see how Effie wasn’t caught in the throes of rumours and larger than life tales of the paranormal; cross-indexing what was spoken about with real science and thus, finding herself a bit in the minority of women who could understand the difference between the truths of their era and the fictitious nature of urban tales. I felt this was a foreshadowing of how she differed from others her age but also, how distant she would become overall, as she wasn’t the most socially friendly woman. Even if I agreed with her assessments at the seance, she didn’t have the right girlfriends in attendance to respect her observations much less believe she was earnestly acting in good faith.

And, yet, as I reached into the scenes shortly after the seance – as she was re-visiting her admiration for a political speaker even though Effie had a firm refusal of accepting her attraction to this gentleman – I found myself losing a bit of traction with the story-line and then, I simply found myself being pulled away from it altogether. I think, partially, I was having trouble feeling a deeper connection to Effie and the characters who lived near her – as her employer was quite a bit obtuse and distant in of his own doings; whilst the flatmates were more judgemental of Effie than they were kind-hearted, save Meg. At least her house Mum was more accepting of her nature and took the time to speak to her in a way which was motherly but overall, I found myself stumbling to find traction in the story as it progressed forward.

I will say, Skenandore doesn’t gloss over the grittier bits of New Orleans during the Restoration – considering the conditions of the streets, the living quarters and how there was a disparaging difference in how people lived on different streets throughout the city’s different quarters and neighbourhoods – paints a strong picture towards what you could expect to find if you walked these streets yourself during this period of time. She also took us closer inside Effie’s own life – rather than expanding too far afield into New Orleans or even the timescape of when this book is set. There are background passages and the overlays of the political scene concurrent to the toils of how Effie must find her own sense of purpose as an embalmer in a world not yet prepared to treat her as an equal.

I had hoped to feel as I had when I first opened the novel – of that rapt curiosity and curious inclination to peer into a world set round mortuary arts and feel myself dramatically connecting to the lead character. Sadly, I hadn’t felt this way and realised this was one story which might be better suited to another reader.

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This blog tour is courtesy of:

Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours - HFVBTFollow the Virtual Road Map

as you visit others participating:

As this particular one has a bookaway along the route:

The Undertaker's Assistant blog tour via HFVBTsDue to unforeseen circumstances, I had to postpone my interview which I was originally going to hug close to my review for this novel. I’m hoping to feature the interview before the conclusion of the blog tour as I’ll be sending in the questions this week to our lovely hostess (Amy Bruno).

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 I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!
Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst readers who gravitate towards the same stories to read. Bookish conversations are always welcome!

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Reading this story contributed to a few of my 2019 reading challenges:

2019 HistFic Reading Challenge banner created by Jorie in Canva.

2019 New Release Challenge created by for and is used with permission.

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{SOURCES: Book cover for “The Undertaker’s Assistant”, book synopsis, author biography, author photograph of Amanda Skenandore, the tour host badge and HFVBTs badge were all provided by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and used with permission. Post dividers badge by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets were embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. 2019 New Release Challenge badge provided by and is used with permission. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Book Spotlight banner, Historical Fiction Reading Challenge banner and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2019.

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Wednesday, 31 July, 2019 by jorielov in Blog Tour Host, Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

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