Synopses & Reviews
For Katherine Givens and the four women about to become her best friends, the adventure begins with a UPS package. Inside is a pair of red sneakers filled with ashes and a note that will forever change their lives. Katherine’s oldest and dearest friend, the irrepressible Annie Freeman, left one final request–a traveling funeral–and she wants the most important women in her life as “pallbearers.”
From Sonoma to Manhattan, Katherine, Laura, Rebecca, Jill, and Marie will carry Annie’s ashes to the special places in her life. At every stop there’s a surprise encounter and a small miracle waiting, and as they whoop it up across the country, attracting interest wherever they go, they share their deepest secrets–tales of broken hearts and second chances, missed opportunities and new beginnings. And as they grieve over what they’ve lost, they discover how much is still possible if only they can unravel the secret Annie left them....
"Radish's latest overwrought book (after Dancing Naked at the Edge of Dawn) tracks five strangers turned soul mates over the course of the titular funeral, posthumously organized by their friend Annie, who died from ovarian cancer at age 56. A package arrives at Katherine Givens's front door and in it are the ashes of her free-spirited, altruistic childhood friend, along with instructions for a procession that will take Annie's closest friends on a cross country trip from Sonoma, Calif., to Manhattan, sprinkling her remains as they go. Just nine days later, Annie's former university colleague Jill, women's crisis savior Laura, cantankerous neighbor Rebecca and her hospice aide Marie join Katherine on the journey during which they learn their eccentric friend's deepest secrets and share many of their own. Most importantly, these unorthodox urnbearers understand the greatness Annie saw in them and attain the courage to act on it. Windswept melodrama marks Radish's prose (e.g. 'these moments were the ones Marie needed to keep the tears and gashes in her own soul from washing her out to sea'), but that will not deter readers who relish the idea of women forming bonds when their mettle is tested and finding power and self-actualization in grief, sharing and love." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
The bestselling author of "Dancing Naked at the Edge of Dawn" introduces five singular women about to embark upon a most remarkable--and inspiring--journey.
About the Author
Kris Radish is an author, journalist, and nationally syndicated political and humor columnist. Her Bantam Dell novels, The Elegant Gathering of White Snows
and Dancing Naked at the Edge of Dawn,
were both Book Sense 76 Selections and appeared on national bestseller lists. She is also the author of the true-crime book Run, Bambi, Run
and a psychology book, Birth Order Plus
. Her speaking engagements take her across the country to talk about writing, and women’s and feminist issues. Her Elegant Gatherings and Dancing Naked
workshops have set more than a few women on fire.
She lives with her two tall teenage children and her partner in Wisconsin, where she rides her motorcycle—usually fully clothed—loves to swim, hikes with her writing tablet in her back pocket, and often scares unsuspecting neighbors with her wild laugh. She is working on her fourth novel, The Sunday List of Dreams, which Bantam will publish in 2007.
Reading Group Guide
Kris Radish has captivated readers coast-to-coast with novels featuring women who dare to leave the daily grind behind and follow their hearts–savoring every adventure and triumph along the way. In Annie Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral
, she introduces us to an endearing new circle of friends. They are linked by the inimitable Annie Freeman, a courageous, audacious, and thoroughly inspiring free spirit. After Annie loses her battle with cancer, her cherished friend Katherine Givins receives a remarkable package. Inside is a pair of red sneakers filled with Annie's ashes. An enclosed note reveals Annie's final request: a traveling funeral, stretching from Sonoma, California, to Florida, and Manhattan to Seattle. Annie has made arrangements for the most important women in her life to visit the most important places in her life, scattering her ashes in each locale. As her "pallbearers" take to the skies and hit the road, they begin to share memories of the dazzling woman who brought them together, while embracing long-buried secrets about the turning points in their own lives. They learn to grieve, to rejoice, to dance and dream–and to find something fabulous in everything they do.
Just as Annie's friends gathered for renewal and celebration, your book group will find much to explore as they tour the country with Kris Radish's vibrant cast of characters. The questions, discussion topics, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your reading of Annie Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral. We hope they will enrich your experience of this rousing novel.
1. Annie Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral opens with the dilemma of Katherine's disintegrating Bali bra. What does this situation tell us about her personality? In what way does it set the perfect tone? What enables the UPS driver to be so empathetic?
2. What were your first impressions of Annie G. Freeman after reading her obituary? How did you envision her by the end of the novel? What made her such a tireless champion for so many overlooked realms of humanity?
3. What did Annie mean in her instructions when she wrote, "Honor me now and you will honor yourselves"?
4. Did Annie's friendship with Katherine change very much from the time they were teenagers? How did "Katie" respond to Annie's suicide attempt? What were the greatest comforts they gave to each other over the years?
5. When Annie becomes Jill’s protégé in Chapter Five, she says that she does not want to be challenged irresponsibly or tricked, and "I don’t want to have to stand on my head to get a promotion." She also asks to be mentored and trained. What would it take to make such on-the-job negotiations the norm, full of candor and benevolence?
6. What transformations does Laura make during the traveling funeral? What is the significance of her prophetic feelings? Why was she the ideal lifeline for Annie on the night she was attacked?
7. What do Annie and Rebecca teach each other about control? What was at the heart of their initial struggle to get along as neighbors?
8. In what way is Marie distinct from the other women? What is the source of the special traits that make her a gifted hospice worker? What was the effect of her intangible presence on the trip, by cell phone and memory?
9. What do all of Annie's friends have in common? How does the theme of rescue and healing play out in their traveling funeral? What variations did you notice in the thoughts and responses recorded in the journal?
10. Discuss the men in Annie's life, ranging from John and their sons to the mysterious ex-husband who observes them in Manhattan. How was she able to balance love and independence? How would you characterize her life: bittersweet? Exhilarating?
11. Compare each of the destinations on Annie's itinerary. How do the landscapes form a complete portrait of her? What aspects of her life are captured by the various "guides" encountered on the trip?
12. Do you agree with the airport anthropologist's theory that the death of a loved one can restore other relationships in our lives? How have your friends, family, and community traditionally responded to grief? Why does the traveling funeral resonate with so many strangers near the end of their journey?
13. Discuss Balinda's presence. What is the role of spontaneity and improvisation in the traveling funeral? How do Balinda's plans for her mother convey the new perspective rippling throughout the travelers?
14. In Chapter Twenty-eight, Annie's friends express their anger–toward her, toward her death, and over the end of their beautiful time together. What healing comes from this anger?
15. If you were to plan your own traveling funeral, who would your "pallbearers" be? What places would you want them to visit together? What untold chapters of your life would you like them to discover along the way?
16. What common threads does Annie Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral share with Kris Radish's previous novels? What makes each book's circle of friends unique?