Synopses & Reviews
In the spring of her senior year, Donna Parisi finds new life in an unexpected place: a coffin.
Since her father's death four years ago, Donna has gone through the motions of living: her friendships are empty, she's clueless about what to do after high school graduation, and her grief keeps her isolated, cut off even from the one parent she has left. That is until she's standing in front of the dead body of a classmate at Brighton Brothers' Funeral Home. At that moment, Donna realizes what might just give her life purpose is comforting others in death. That maybe what she really wants to be is a mortician.
This discovery sets in motion a life Donna never imagined was possible. She befriends a charismatic new student, Liz, notices a boy, Charlie, and realizes that maybe he's been noticing her, too, and finds herself trying things she hadn't dreamed of trying before. By taking risks, Donna comes into her own, diving into her mortuary studies with a passion and skill she didn't know she had in her. And she finally understands that moving forward doesn't mean forgetting someone you love.
Jen Violi's heartfelt and funny debut novel is a story of transformation how one girl learns to grieve and say goodbye, turn loss into a gift, and let herself be exceptional... at loving, applying lipstick to corpses, and finding life in the wake of death.
"Since Donna's father died, she prefers to go inside herself to a 'quiet place.... the only spot I feel at home,' until she finds another comfortable place — a funeral home — and decides to become a mortician. But even as Donna applies to mortuary school after high school and starts work at Brighton Brothers Funeral Home, she must learn to connect with the living, including her well-meaning but disapproving mother and an offbeat friend who may be crushing on her. Readers will find Donna's job choice intriguing, as well as the descriptions of her education, including restorative arts class, where 'people in lab coats are working with what I think is clay, shaping it into things I have to squint to realize are parts of the human face.' Violi's first novel is swimming in unusual characters, from the people — both living and dead — who pass through the funeral home, to the eccentric members of Donna's church drama troupe. These characters and their many plot lines distract from Donna's journey to embrace both those around her and those who have died. Ages 14 - up. (May)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Although some wry comedy seeps into the narrative, Donna's focus, and the book's, remains on respecting the dead people and easing the grief of their families. As Donna learns how to care for dead people she also begins to care for living ones." Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA, Jen Violi has since made her home in such places as Dayton, OH, Goodyear, AZ, New Orleans, LA, and Takoma Park, MD. Jen has currently staked her claim in Portland, Oregon, where the greenery is plentiful, the creative spirit palpable, and the fresh coffee available every few feet — just how she likes it. At the University of Dayton, Jen completed both a BA in English and Theatre and an MA in Theological Studies and worked for seven years in campus ministry, ultimately as Director of Retreats and Faith Development. During her time at UD, she wrote and directed over fourteen spiritual dramas and facilitated numerous retreat experiences on campus and elsewhere.
In 2004, she journeyed to the University of New Orleans, where she gained an MFA in Creative Writing, an appetite for spicy food, and a love for Earth religions. Via Portland, Jen continues to serve as adjunct faculty for the Applied Healing Arts master's degree program at Tai Sophia Institute in Laurel, MD. Currently, she's also launching her own business, offering services such as creative writing coaching; workshop, retreat, and ritual facilitating; and officiating wedding ceremonies. Jen's fiction has been published in The Baltimore Review, and she's hard at work on her second novel. Through her being and doing, she seeks to honor the sacred in all of its forms and the profound healing power of stories.