Driving With Dead People: A Memoir by Monica Holloway

I didn't love this book, but I was very much intrigued. 

To start, there are only a few instances when Monica is actually driving with dead people. I'm not sure it's an accurate title for the book, but it is creative and caught my eye, which is why I picked it up.

Driving With Dead people is the memoir of Monica Holloway, a girl from small town Ohio with an extremely dysfunctional family. It only gets worse as her life goes on. As a girl, Monica develops a fascination with dead people after she befriends the daughter of a mortician. She spends her childhood lying in coffins and playing in cemeteries. While this all sounds very dark and sinister, Holloway writes it in a way that is captivating and often hilarious. For instance, after a local girl is killed who is Monica's age, she becomes obsessed with the idea of going to the girls funeral but doesn't know how she will get there. She decides her Granda is a good candidate:

"Granda was my mothers mother, but the opposite of my mom in every way. Granda was a realist, and that's how she needed to be approached. She could be very sentimental and loving, but she'd also killed her own cat. He bothered her. She had a bad hip and she'd gotten tired of getting up and down out of her chair to let him in and out of the aluminum door of  her trailer. So she'd locked him in her freestanding garage that the pole barn company had built for her right beside her trailer; she'd lured him in with a raw hot dog, closed the door, and left the Buick running for three hours. I felt she could be persuaded to attend a funeral"

The first half of the novel is much more light-hearted than the second half. By the time I got to the ladder half of the book I was holding back tears. Things get pretty intense with scenes of child molestation, rape, domestic abuse and suicide. If you think you're life is rough, read this book. I'm sure afterward you will consider yourself blessed. 

There is also an interesting scene near the end of the book when Monica returns home and visits her friend whose family owns the mortuary. Monica watches as a new body is brought in and is prepped for the funeral:

"He looked too young to be dead, but he definitely looked dead.  His skin was a yellowish bruised color, his eyes were shut but sunken, and his fingernails were blue... She took a scalpel and help it up for me to see. I have her the thumbs-up and she cut a small incision in the man's shoulder near his collarbone and used a small metal hook to pull up an artery and a vein. The hose in the artery was attached to the embalming machine. When Liz switched the machine on, embalming fluid gurgled and pumped into the artery, forcing blood he would never need again to drain out of his veins. The reddish maroon liquid emptied into a canal along the edge of the embalming table, and then swirled into a drain below. Within a few minutes his skin took on a peach-colored hue and his blue fingernails turned pink. It was magical and unsettling."

Driving With Dead People is about learning to deal with the pit falls of life and creating happiness for yourself. It's about finding strength and reliance in a world of chaos. It's an impressing and empowering story, in which Monica Holloway asserts herself as the calvary in her own life. She is truly an inspiration.

It's most definitely a page turner, perplexing and discomforting at the same time.

Publisher: Simon and Schuster, 2007


  1. I gotta say, the title completely drew me in. I think I'd still like to read it, but will definitely bear your review in mind!!

  2. Yes the title is what drew me in as well! Then I didn't want to put down the book. Worth a read for sure, it's just not for everyone.

  3. I suspect I'm burned out on dysfunctional family memoirs at the moment, but this does sound intriguing.

  4. the title and the cover have completely entranced me since the first time I've seen them...i want to read this book; i'm disturbed by this book but i still want to read it. your review is excellent!