Washing The Dead by Michelle Brafman- 340 pages
Three generations of women confront family secrets in this exquisitely wrought debut novel that examines the experience of religious community, the perilous emotional path to adulthood, and the power of sacred rituals to repair damaged bonds between mothers and daughters.
My Review: 4 stars
Washing The Dead is the perfect title for this beautiful book both literally and figuratively, but the cover photo, not so much. Yes, I know, don’t judge a book by its cover, yet this cover photo made no sense to me.
The pages of this novel are enmeshed in complicated mother daughter relationships, friendships and the art of forgiveness.
Orthodox Chassidic Judaism is its own character and is portrayed accurately and with much grace. The ritual of Mikvah (a spiritual cleansing) and the ritual of Tahara (the washing of a body before burial) are both used with brilliant symbolism. Redemption, guilt, secrets, the ugliness of depression, the order of rites and rituals, secular living and finding closure are all strong themes of the book.
Dealing with the A’s of a sandwich generation, ADHD in the young and Alzheimer’s in the old, did not go unnoticed. Although I thoroughly enjoyed this story, there were times that the protagonist was overly repetitive about certain characters or feelings. Definitely thought that could’ve been fleshed out by the editor.
I think this would make an excellent book for discussion. I’m looking forward to reading more from this author!
Quotes I liked:
My mother and I gobbled up fiction without chewing.”
-“The memory made me feel like a canoe capsizing in rapids of love and regret.”
-“For tonight, life was sweet, maybe Splenda-sweet, but I’d take it.”
-“My mother’s mood hovered over us, a mist that could either turn to rain or vanish into the sunlight.”
“She held my hand with a touch so light that it felt like her fingers were blowing mine kisses.