A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents Review
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For most of us, the holidays are a time for getting together with family—which, for most of us, also means dealing with Crazy Uncle Tony and Aunt Louise, the drama queen. But now that most of the real family drama of the holidays is behind us for another year, it’s a good time to brew some tea and curl up with a bit of family drama of the fictional kind—and it doesn’t get too much better (or more touchingly honest) than Liza Palmer’s A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents.

For the past five years, Grace Hawkes has depended on no one but herself. Reeling from grief following her mother’s sudden death, she walked away from her tight-knit family and her boyfriend, John—and she hasn’t spoken to any of them since.

Then, one afternoon—during a company event with her new (and rather boring) boyfriend, Tim—Grace gets a call from her older sister, Abigail. Their father—the man who walked out of their lives 22 years ago—has had a serious stroke, and everyone’s getting together to visit him.

Conflicted but feeling pressured by her siblings, Grace cashes in her vacation time, packs a bag, and heads north for her long-overdue reunion. But when she arrives at the hospital, there’s not much time for catching up. She’s instantly thrown into the middle of a legal dispute involving her dad’s new wife and stepson—with John, the man she’s never stopped loving, acting as her family’s lawyer.

Like Palmer’s earlier novels (Coversations with the Fat Girl and Seeing Me Naked), A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents is an honest novel, filled with characters who are imperfect and insecure—and completely real.

Grace isn’t the typical chick lit heroine. She doesn’t have it all together. She doesn’t spend the bulk of the story talking about shoes or handbags. And her life is lacking a whole lot more than just a man to love her and take care of her. Since she lost her mother, she’s had a gaping hole in her life—one that she’s tried to fill with work and a new house and a boring new boyfriend…anything to keep her mind off her loss. Like many of us, she found it so much easier to walk away and ignore the problem than facing it head-on. The longer she ignored it, the easier it got—until it all comes rushing back at once. You’ll love Grace for her imperfections and insecurities—and, to some extent, you’ll most likely see a little bit of yourself in her. And that’s what makes her such a lovable character. You may not always agree with her, but you’ll understand her—and you’ll hope that it’ll all work out for her in the end.

Meanwhile, unlike Palmer’s earlier novels, A Field Guide isn’t quite as light and easy-going. The story is often highly emotional. In fact, I think I may have shed a tear or two every time I picked it up. Still, Palmer writes with the perfect mix of warmth and light humor—so although it’s often quite moving, it never feels heavy or oppressive.

Once again, Palmer has written a refreshingly real novel. Though A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents is slightly more serious than her earlier novels, it will make you laugh (or at least smile) just as often as it’ll make you cry. And it might leave you with a fresh perspective on your own family drama.

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