The Funeral Cryer

Hanover Square: Harlequin. Apr. 2024. 240p. ISBN 9781335016935. $28.99. F
DEBUT In a small rural village in northeast China, the eponymous narrator of this novel has lived with her husband of over 20 years. Their marriage has not been a happy one, and the husband is often abusive. He also does not work, so, 10 years ago, she got a job as a funeral cryer. While it is traditional to hire a cryer for a Chinese funeral, friends and neighbors consider the narrator bad luck and ostracize her. Her father’s care home even forbids her to visit. The funeral cryer’s only avenue for socialization comes in the form of her visits to the barber. Beaten down by her world, she has resigned herself to the sameness and joyless existence of her life. When the barber and Hotpot, a recent widow who is pregnant, interrupt this existence, she clings to them, even though she is not sure of her own feelings for them. The title character’s wry, sad, and insightful inner voice is the star here. Her meditations on grief, death, love, and duty are full of poetry and longing.
VERDICT Perfect for literary-fiction fans, especially those who enjoyed other extraordinary novels about ordinary people, such as Lydia Millet’s Dinosaurs and Zorrie by Laird Hunt.
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