Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Funeral Songs for Dying Girls


Funeral Songs for Dying Girls / Cherie Dimaline
TO: Tundra, c2023.
271 p.

I read this one quickly, as it's a YA novel and by Cherie Dimaline - I have read most of her books so far. I liked it alright, it hooked me enough to keep reading but overall I ended up feeling meh about it. 

Winifred lives in a cemetery with her father; he has a job at the crematorium there. Her mother died when she was born so it's just the two of them. She wanders around moodily in the graveyard, and is eventually mistaken for a ghost, which brings the economic potential of ghost tours to their small and failing cemetery. 

Just this would have been enough for an interesting story, but there is also the angst of Winifred's so-called best friend Jack betraying her to his buddies, the father who is more involved with the memory of his dead wife than with Winifred herself, the potential loss of their home and livelihood, and, oh yes, the real ghost in the graveyard.

Win conjures the ghost of a girl around her own age, an Indigenous girl from the country who ended up dying in the ravine below the cemetery thanks to bad company. Phil is angry and punk, and she and Win end up spending a lot of the book mad at each other while simultaneously navigating their attraction to one another. Phil is also jealous of Jack every time he shows up, and this adds more teen angst. 

There are some good bits to this story, some nice interactions, especially with Win's Aunt Roberta. But there are also some characters who are more caricature, and the pace of the book was uneven to me. I liked it but didn't quite love it, which is often the case for me with Dimaline's writing. It's unique and has some thoughtful content that could spark discussion, but the uneven pacing/plotting and conclusion let me down a little. 

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