by Timothy Schaffert

Unbridled Books, $24.95, 262 pages

Essie is an 80-year-old obituary writer in an innocuous mid-Western town. She has seen her town go from a mostly prosperous town with a strong sense of community to an economically depressed town whose citizens are disconnected from each other. This changes when a local girl, Lenore, is reported missing by her mother, Daisy.  Spurred by crisis, the town comes together in determination and hope only to have it fall apart again when suspicions of a hoax arise.

Like most good novels, The Coffins of Little Hope is not so much about the story but about the people behind the story. As Essie observes the town’s changes, which are mirrored by events in her own family, she begins to examine her own life.  She revisits her choices and regrets in ways that are at times amusing and occasionally sad but always touching. Told from the perspective of Essie, Timothy Schaffert has created a poignant and heart-wrenching tale of life – individual life, the life of a family and the life of a town. The novel starts off slowly and gradually lures the reader into the story. This is a novel that is hard to put down and hard to forget.


Reviewed by Barbara Cothern