Demise of the Undertaker’s Wife - A Short Story Collection
By Anne Walsh Donnelly
The Blue Nib is excited to be publishing the first short fiction collection by Irish author Anne Walsh Donnelly, Demise of the Undertaker’s Wife; A Short Story Collection.
Anne is already well-known for her poetry. Her short stories share features that make her poetry so popular: honesty, openness, mature sensibility and voice, and a strong ability to create imagery which stands out in a reader’s mind.
This excerpt shows Anne’s talent at crafting convincingly real dialogue:
My voice was getting a bit too high for a funeral home. She took her hand off Jack’s body and used it to rub her eyes.
“So are you going to tell me who it is?” I asked.
She sneaked a quick look at Jack’s face but I caught her.
“It’s him, isn’t it? Or should I say it was him,” I said, saliva hitting her in the face as I spit the words out.
“It’s over now,” she said, turning to walk away.
I grabbed her arm and the blood left her face. I would have frightened myself as much as her with my tight grip only that the picture of her and him in his black Audi was tormenting me. If she had apologised or offered some sort of an excuse, it might have helped calm me down.
“I’m too upset to talk about this now. Anyway I told Jack last week that I couldn’t see him anymore,” she said, trying to pull her arm from my hand.
“Is that supposed to make everything alright? So what are we supposed to do now? Kiss and make up? Forget this ever happened?”
I was shouting and laughing at the same time but didn’t loosen my grip. She didn’t answer and to be honest, I don’t think it would have done any good if she had.
It’s funny but I can never recall what happened next. All I remember was thinking how they were a perfect fit, herself and Jack Costello.
Her warm corpse clung to his, as I screwed on the lid of the coffin. It was a difficult job getting it shut. My heart was thumping and hands shaking. I managed to squeeze the Guess handbag between Jack’s shoes.
I had to take the two dead dogs out of the coffin so there’d be enough space for Maureen. The weight of them nearly killed me as I dragged them out back and put them in the
boot of my car. I’d bury them in the garden later, under her rosebushes.
I put the photo, Jack’s niece had brought in earlier, on the coffin lid and sat down in the chief mourner’s chair to clear my dizzy head. The shock of it all ripped through my body like a tornado. I steadied myself, which was no mean feat, given the circumstances. Then I put on my undertaker face, stood up, left the room and locked the funeral home’s front door. I badly needed a pint before the wake.
Excerpt from “Demise of the Undertaker’s Wife”, the first story in Demise of the Undertaker’s Wife; A Short Story Collection.
Asked about what readers can expect from Demise of the Undertaker’s Wife, Anne says
the collection features a wide range of characters who struggle with loss
in some form or another and sometimes resort to desperate measures to
assuage their grief. I explore themes such as anger, betrayal, death and
loneliness. Redemption features in some of the stories as well as the
healing power of connection when some of the characters reach out to
others for support and succeed in conquering their demons.
Anne’s inspiration for her stories comes first from a character’s formation. She puts it this way:
Most of the stores in the collection started when characters spoke to me.
They are the little voices in my head that won’t shut up until I write their
words down. I often feel I am the conduit through which these characters
get their story onto the page. It’s a mysterious process. Once their story is
out, it’s my job to craft what they have to say into finished and polished pieces.
Known primarily for her very personal poetry, Anne explains the difference she finds in writing prose.
Writing prose for me feels like writing with my clothes on. Writing poetry
feels like writing in the nude. In my stories, I explore themes that are important
to me through my characters and I can distance myself from what’s going on
in their minds. Poetry feels more immediate and I think readers often presume
that what is said in poetry is factually true, though for me that’s not always the
case. I sometimes use story in my poems to convey my emotional truth. Both
short stories and poetry are similar in that there is no room for fluff.
Praise for Demise of the Undertaker’s Wife has been coming in from respected authors.
Demise of the Undertaker’s Wife is an impressive debut from Anne Walsh Donnelly. With her close observation of the human psyche, her razor-sharp pen delineates the world of murder, cruelty, control, with an eye that is sharp, unsettling and clearly demonstrates her lyrical talent. She shines a spotlight on the brokenness of life, the fear of silence and the desperate need for the characters to find someone to communicate with, whether it is with Iscariot or the Angel Gabriel. The voices are always true and convincing. I still cannot get the demise of the poor undertaker’s wife out of my head. That’s exactly what a good short story should do.
Geraldine Mills, author and poet, co-author of The Other Side of Longing and author of Lick of the Lizard.
Anne has the gift of bringing her characters to life on the page. Every story contains people I found myself thinking and caring about long after I’d finished reading. I am certain there is something for everyone in this high-quality collection.
Lorraine Mace, author and columnist for Writing Magazine and Writer’s Forum
Demise of the Undertaker’s Wife; A Short Story Collection is available 15 September from The Blue Nib Books imprint.
New and renewing subscribers to The Blue Nib between 1 June 2019 to 30 September 2019 will receive a copy of Anne Walsh Donnelly’s Demise of the Undertaker’s Wife; A Short Story Collection along with Issue 39.