I just finished reading Monica Holloway’s first memoir, Driving with Dead People, and I’ve been sitting here for fifteen minutes trying to figure out how to write about the book without including any spoilers.
Not an easy task with this book since the last chapters hit me hard.
Near the end of the book, I wondered how I missed it all. On reflection, I guess it’s because the book is that well-written.
You’re going to love this one as the narrator’s voice is engaging, but if you don’t like to read dark memoirs, then it might take a frightening turn for you. If you venture on, you find that your journey has value, and that Holloway is courageous.
Holloway tells the story of her childhood, growing up in the midwest. Her father is cruel, and at first her mother seems as much a victim as the four children. Then Holloway’s mother goes to college and gets the courage to leave her husband. Emotionally, she turns her back on her children as surely as if she had completely abandoned them.
Her obsession with death and dead people keeps Holloway going throughout these years. Her best friend’s father owns a funeral parlor, and she gets a job driving dead bodies for him. She haunts the graveyard.
Additionally, the passion (different from obsession) that gets Holloway through it all is her love of and talent for acting. She eventually earns an MFA in theatre from the University of California, San Diego. She builds a life far from her Ohio roots.
But the path is not without great difficulty. The family has been destroyed by the behavior of the parents. Her closest sibling, the oldest sister, has been particularly damaged. But so has Holloway herself, and it’s only at the very end of the book that she discovers just how much.
From this memoir I learned that writing a memoir can be like writing a mystery. In this type of memoir, the writer can’t give away all the critical information up front as the story needs to develop in its own time. But clues need to be embedded throughout the narrative so that when all is revealed, even if the reader is shocked, she will see how inevitable the events were. She won’t feel that the writer was playing games, withholding just for the sake of sensation. Holloway creates a suspenseful, seamless story using this technique.
Holloway has published a second memoir, about the relationship between her son, who is autistic, and a dog. Here is a book trailer for this book:
Cowboy and Wills looks charming, and I am putting on my to-be-read list.
If you want to find out more about Holloway or about the third memoir she is currently writing, check out her website.