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The Coffins of Little Hope

by Timothy Schaffert

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2132695,201 (3.39)15
Essie is the octogenarian obituary writer for her family's small town newspaper. When a young country girl is reported to be missing, perhaps whisked away by an itinerant aerial photographer, Essie stumbles onto the story of her life. Or, it all could be simply a hoax, or a delusion, the child and child-thief invented from the desperate imagination of a lonely, lovelorn woman. Either way, the story of the girl reaches far and wide, igniting controversy, attracting curiosity seekers and cult worshippers from all over the country to this dying rural town. And then it is revealed that the long awaited final book of an infamous series of Y.A. gothic novels is being secretly printed on the newspaper's presses. The Coffins of Little Hope tells a feisty, energetic story of characters caught in the intricately woven webs of myth, legend and deception even as Schaffert explores with his typical exquisite care and sharp eye the fragility of childhood, the strength of family, the powerful rumor mills of rural America, and the sometimes dramatic effects of pop culture on the way we shape our world.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
I found this book on a summer reading list off the NPR site and I thought it would be a quirky fun read. It has all of the makings of a quirky novel; eighty-something Essie narrates this story and writes obits for the newspaper, her grandson, Doc, who runs the paper but really longs to be a magician, and a mystery about whether a little girl actually ever existed outside of her mother’s imagination who now claims her daughter has been abducted,--but all of these things do not a quirky fun novel make. In fact I would say it is more of a serious novel occasionally laced with bits of amusement. In addition to the mystery there is a subplot about the newest Miranda and Desiree book (think A Series of Unfortunate Events) being leaked. But overriding both plot and character is theme. This is a theme driven novel and the theme is fractured families.

Each of the main characters come from , or is a part of a fractured family. Ivy, Essie’s granddaughter abandons her 7-year old daughter, Tiff, to go to Paris with her mentor and lover. Her brother, Doc is left to raise Tiff until 6 years later Ivy unexpectedly comes back to Nebraska to become Tiff’s Mom again. Daisy, raised on nearby Crippled Eighty Farm claims her 11-year old daughter, Lenore, has been abducted by an itinerate aerial photographer, but no one seems to be able to remember Daisy ever having a daughter. (I love the names Schaffert uses for the moms: Ivy, the vine that continues to grow and overtake everything in its path and Daisy, the simple, common flower. ) Muscatine, the author of the Miranda and Desiree books has a stepdaughter whom he loves like his own (even after he has divorced her mother) and wants only her approval and love, but instead is completely disdained by her. Schaffert wants us to think about parenting and families and what makes a family, and the old adage of “Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.” He also explores other themes such as aging, death, and the media.

Schaffert is a good writer and effortlessly weaves his many themes and plot lines together effortlessly. And while it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be I did enjoy it; whether I’ll remember much about it a year from now though is doubtful.
( )
  tshrope | Jan 13, 2020 |
I've been going back and forth on this one between a 4 and a 5. Great characters, lovely story. ( )
  mamashepp | Mar 29, 2016 |
I've been going back and forth on this one between a 4 and a 5. Great characters, lovely story. ( )
  mamashepp | Mar 29, 2016 |
What wonderful, quirky characters populate this story! There are multiple layers to this story and while on one level there isn't much "action"
on another level there are multiple stories occurring. The mystery of the missing girl is not resolved and yet the book feels complete.
I highly recommend and look forward to reading more by Schaffert. ( )
  kellyn | Jun 23, 2015 |
This seemed a very quiet book to me. There is a lot of action - a missing girl, secret book printing, a pack of wild dogs...but it all seems to happen quietly, clamly. It could be because the story is told by Essie, the town obituary writer who has lived a long time in this little Nebraska town. Essie is what I would call unflappable, and I wish I knew her, and the people in her life. ( )
  mlake | Apr 28, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
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Essie is the octogenarian obituary writer for her family's small town newspaper. When a young country girl is reported to be missing, perhaps whisked away by an itinerant aerial photographer, Essie stumbles onto the story of her life. Or, it all could be simply a hoax, or a delusion, the child and child-thief invented from the desperate imagination of a lonely, lovelorn woman. Either way, the story of the girl reaches far and wide, igniting controversy, attracting curiosity seekers and cult worshippers from all over the country to this dying rural town. And then it is revealed that the long awaited final book of an infamous series of Y.A. gothic novels is being secretly printed on the newspaper's presses. The Coffins of Little Hope tells a feisty, energetic story of characters caught in the intricately woven webs of myth, legend and deception even as Schaffert explores with his typical exquisite care and sharp eye the fragility of childhood, the strength of family, the powerful rumor mills of rural America, and the sometimes dramatic effects of pop culture on the way we shape our world.

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