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Nine Years Under: Coming of Age in an…

Nine Years Under: Coming of Age in an Inner-City Funeral Home

by Sheri Booker

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An intriguing if not gripping look at the funeral home business in a large inner city in the 1970s (I think). Casual descriptions of the bodies: transsexuals, dwarfs, amputees, babies along with graphic descriptions of embalming are leavened by the warmth and sympathy that the Home provides. Most disturbing is the rash of deaths at an early age from violence, neglect, and poor health. Most encouraging is seeing Ms Booker evolve into an accomplished, self-possessed person capable of handling all manner of people and situations. An occasional f-bomb and one (nongraphic) sexual scene, otherwise nothing objectionable and plenty for gory-hounds to love. ( )
  mjspear | Aug 27, 2016 |
In my 36 years on this earth I have had the role of a death sitter three times. I have seen the light that shines in the eyes fade, as the soul transitions to another level. I have waited for the funeral home to come retrieve my loved one’s body and watched as they placed him or her in the body bag. To some it might seem morbid, but I could not leave until the very end. Although I have seen the steps of death, I have been slightly curious about what happens afterwards. I remember how impressed I was when both my grandmother and grandfather looked good. In fact, they were almost unrecognizable after the makeup, embalming, and wigs were applied. I was amazed how the mortician was able to take away the kiss of death, to the point where it looked like they were sleeping in the caskets. This book is about the inner works of a funeral home and one young woman’s experience there. It tells the story of her nine year life lesson, on how a funeral home became a jump start at creating the person she is today.

I absolutely enjoyed this book. I loved how the author brought the reader from her first experience as a young fifteen year old girl to a grown woman nine years later. I found the details about the inner workings of the funeral home and its characters to be enjoyable. I was impressed how the author was honest with the location and culture of the funeral. Not everyone has a great deal of money, but most do the best they can. I was told by my grandmother for many years that death is the great equalizer and this book demonstrates this concept through and through. There were no stereotypes, prejudices, ignorance, or blame games of equality. There was only the honest truth about death and its lack of eyes. Death tends to be blind to people and it only senses its victims. This book has a lot to offer and I was very impressed. It answered many of my questions about what takes place in a funeral home when no one is around. I am not one to watch television, so this book gave me answers on a more personable level. I have to recommend this book hands down and must thank both goodreads and the author for sending me this book for review in a giveaway. I appreciate it and am happy that I won! ( )
  Jennifer35k | Jun 1, 2015 |
This is a first person account told by the author of her nine years working in a funeral home in Baltimore. She starts working for the Wylie funeral home as a fifteen year old because she knows the family from her church. The story could be more interesting if it was better written, if the people were more fully described or if the narrative was more compelling. I just didn't feel very attached to anyone in the book and thought that there would be some really interesting insights into the industry or to particular dead people. Not so. Too bad. ( )
  MaggieFlo | Mar 3, 2014 |
I liked this a lot. Sheri Booker is a good storyteller. It is fascinating and touching work that she did during these nine years. I'm glad that she has moved on to writing. ( )
  njcur | Feb 13, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I remain intrigued by Ms Booker's memories of spending nine years working in a Baltimore funeral home.

She begins to create a portraits of the people who make up the funeral home family. And then she stops and interjects what sometimes seems to be an entirely new book. All the tales are appropriate to a memior;.but it struck me as disjointed. I would get wrapped up in a part of the narrative and then be taken somewhere else just when I wanted to know more. More about the author. Why did she enjoy dating a drug dealer? How did she become so close to Ms Angela? What was her families reaction to her job/possible career choice? What exactly was her relationship with her Aunt?

Much in the book seemed glossed over. The most well written dealt with the day operations of the funeral home, Ms Booker's learning of the craft and the her relationship with Ms Wylie.

Ms Booker's writing style is easy to read. The pace of the book is good. At the close I wanted more from this memior. ( )
  AzureMountain | Oct 5, 2013 |
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"Six Feet Under" meets The Wire in a dazzling and darkly comic memoir about coming-of-age in a black funeral home in Baltimore. Sheri Booker was only fifteen years old when she started working at Wylie Funeral Home in West Baltimore. She had no idea that her summer job would become nine years of immersion in a hidden world. Reeling from the death of her beloved great aunt, she found comfort in the funeral home, and soon has the run of the place, from its sacred chapels to the terrifying embalming room. With AIDS and gang violence threatening to wipe out a generation of black men, Wylie was never short on business. As families came together to bury one of their own, Booker was privy to their most intimate moments of grief and despair. But along with the sadness, Booker encountered moments of dark humor: brawls between mistresses and widows, and car crashes at McDonald's with dead bodies in tow. While she never got over her terror of the embalming room, Booker learned to expect the unexpected and to never, ever cry. This vibrant tour of a macabre world reveals an urban funeral culture where photo-screened memorial T-shirts often replace suits and ties and the dead are sent off with a joint or a fifth of cognac. Nine Years Under offers readers an unbelievable glimpse into an industry in the backdrop of all our lives"--… (more)

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