Title: The Coffins of Little Hope
Author: Timothy Schaffert
Publisher: Unbridled Books
Publication Date: April 19, 2011
Hardcover: 272 pages
Timothy Schaffert has created his most memorable character yet in Essie, an octogenarian obituary writer for her family’s small town newspaper. When a young country girl is reported to be missing, perhaps whisked away by an itinerant aerial photographer, Essie stumbles onto the story of her life. Or, it all could be simply a hoax, or a delusion, the child and child-thief invented from the desperate imagination of a lonely, lovelorn woman. Either way, the story of the girl reaches far and wide, igniting controversy, attracting curiosity-seekers and cult worshippers from all over the country to this dying rural town. And then it is revealed that the long awaited final book of an infamous series of ya gothic novels is being secretly printed on the newspaper’s presses.
The Coffins of Little Hope tells a feisty, energetic story of characters caught in the intricately woven webs of myth, legend and deception even as Schaffert explores with his typical exquisite care and sharp eye the fragility of childhood, the strength of family, the powerful rumor mills of rural America, and the sometimes dramatic effects of pop culture on the way we shape our world.
I have enjoyed every book I have read by Timothy Schaffert and after reading The Coffins of Little Hope I realised this is, in my opinion, his best book to date. Schaffert has a beautiful, subtle and unassuming writing style, which easily draws the reader into the story. In this instance there are four stories occurring at once and Schaffert expertly weaves them together and gives them life through the voice of 83-year-old Essie, the obituary writer for the County Paragraph, a small town paper which was begun by her father and her grandson is now shutting down. The characters, real or imagined, as one will learn, are expertly crafted and their lives are told to the reader through Essie, an unpretentious, sharp and intelligent woman, who if truly listened to, has plenty of advise to offer. I was not able to set The Coffins of Little Hope down and was sorry to see it end, as all books must. I became accustomed to Essie and I shall miss her, and while it may sound odd, she is a character that one will not easily dismiss or forget. The Coffins of Little Hope speaks of the past and present cultures while hinting at what may lie ahead, not always easy topics to hear, yet these topics are not isolated to this delightful, quaint, and dying town in Nebraska, rather, through Essie, Schaffert speaks of topics universal and worth remembering. I would recommend The Coffins of Little Hope to all readers and book discussion groups.
Timothy Schaffert grew up on a farm in Nebraska and currently lives in Omaha. His short fiction has been published in several literary journals and he’s won numerous awards, including the Mary Roberts Rinehart Award and the Nebraska Book Award.
He is the author of two other critically-acclaimed novels, The Singing and Dancing Daughters of God and Devils in the Sugar Shop.
I received a complimentary ARC of The Coffin of Little Hope by Timothy Schaffert from Unbridled Books to offer my honest review of the book. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned book.