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Graveminder
Melissa Marr
Narrated by Emma Galvin, unabridged
Harper Audio, 10 hours, 23 minutes

Graveminder
Melissa Marr
Melissa Marr grew up believing in faeries, ghosts, and various other creatures. After teaching college literature for a decade, she applied her fascination with folklore to writing. Wicked Lovely was her first novel. Currently, Marr lives in the Washington, D.C., area, writes full-time, and still believes in faeries and ghosts.

Melissa Marr Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Sarah Trowbridge

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At first glance, the little village of Claysville may appear to be just like any other middle American town of its size: families grow and blend, and everybody knows one another and pitches in when someone needs help. If it seems that the Claysville way of life is somewhat sheltered or removed from the hustle and bustle of contemporary American life -- well, that's to be expected in any small country town, even in the 21st century. But there are certain laws in Claysville, both the official kind and ones that go mostly unspoken. By law, anyone born in Claysville must be buried there, and somehow, nobody born in the town ever moves away, or not for long. And not every town has an official Graveminder: a woman whose responsibility it is to tend tirelessly to the dead and buried, and make sure they stay that way. No, Claysville is unique in this regard, and it's been working well for the town for many generations... until now. 

Maylene Barrow has been the Graveminder now for many decades, and the daily routine of grave visitation, sprinkling of whiskey over the burial sites, and saying a few words over every dead resident is as natural to her as breathing. Maylene knows the day is not too far off when she must designate her successor. She has her eye on her adopted granddaughter Rebekkah, but has never worked up the courage to tell Rebekkah what she needs to know. She thought she still had time, but she was wrong. Accosted one day on her cemetery rounds by a thin, pale, and dirty teenage girl, Maylene realizes she is facing one of the newly dead who has not been properly minded and has risen up. When they rise up like this and walk, they are hungry, as Maylene well knows. Taken by surprise, she leads the girl to her house, hoping to calm this dead visitor and escort her back where she belongs. It doesn't work out, and Maylene ends up murdered on her own kitchen floor. 

Rebekkah Barrow was not born in Claysville but came as a child when her mother married Jimmy, Maylene's son. Grown now, she has moved away and now returns only for the occasional holiday visit with her beloved grandmother.  Rebekkah thinks Maylene's lifelong habit of visiting graves with whiskey and words is just an old folks' quirk, the vestige of some quaint folkloric tradition, not realizing that it's a life-and-death matter of Claysville law. Now, when she receives a package in the mail containing Maylene's empty whiskey flask and nothing else, she knows something is wrong but can't begin to guess exactly what. Not long after this, she is summoned home to Claysville. Rebekkah thinks she's just going home for her grandmother's funeral, but it's not long before she learns that she's expected to stay and take over the Graveminder position, which she never really knew existed. 

Fortunately, there are others in town to help get Rebekkah oriented. It's a dangerous time, with at least one dead person already walking, and the uninitiated new Graveminder must get up to speed. Claysville law provides for every Graveminder to have a partner in her endeavors: the Undertaker, who of course runs the town's funeral home. The elder Undertaker, William Montgomery, who worked with Maylene, has yet to clue his son Byron in about what lies in his future. Like Maylene, though, his hand is about to be forced. Byron and Rebekkah grew up together and already have a checkered past they are both trying to deal with. Soon they are thrown together, dealing with much bigger problems and forced to come to terms with both the immediate crisis and their destinies as the Graveminder and Undertaker of Claysville. 

Already a hugely popular author of the Wicked Lovely fantasy series for teens, Melissa Marr shows promise with her first adult novel. With a flavor and tone reminiscent of Charles de Lint, Graveminder hints at being the first of a series, and should attract a flock of urban fantasy readers eager to immerse themselves in the culture of Claysville and what lies beneath it. Narrator Emma Galvin's youthful voice serves well for the young protagonists, Rebekkah and Byron, though she struggles a bit with the older characters and with presenting distinct voice characterizations for all of the many living and dead denizens of Claysville. Galvin brings an appropriately hushed and somber tone to the story's unfolding, however, making Graveminder an enjoyable listen.

Copyright © 2011 Sarah Trowbridge

Sarah Trowbridge reads (and listens) compulsively, chronically, and eclectically. She is a public librarian in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia.


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