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100 Books in a Year: Driving with Dead People by Monica Holloway

By dammitjanet | Books | April 15, 2009 |

By dammitjanet | Books | April 15, 2009 |

It isn’t often that someone you went to high school with grows up, marries someone involved with the longest-running show on TV, and writes a memoir. I found out about Driving with Dead People while it was still in process. Monica Holloway (not her real last name) was still in communication with our former teacher and speech team coach, and she had told him she was writing a book. She also told our speech-team coach that was featured in the book. What she didn’t tell him was exactly how he was portrayed. Mr. H was a larger-than-life personality to begin with, and he assumed that she was going to heap praise upon him for discovering her talent, propelling her down the road to success, blah blah blah … not quite.

In Driving with Dead People, we are introduced to Monica Holloway as an eight year old, reading about another eight year old who has been hit by a car. Thus begins her fascination with death. The attention and interest shown to the dead was preferable to the interest shown to her at home by her abusive father, who molested her and her siblings on a regular basis, while their mother turned a blind eye. She befriends the daughter of the owner of the local funeral home, who I also remember. Their family took Monica to heart and showed her the attention and affection she could not get at home.

Monica describes her violent and abusive father, her distant mother, her siblings, various family members and friends so well that I, as someone who knows most of them, recognizes them easily. Even if you don’t know them personally, you will know someone like them. There are those who want to help, but don’t know how.. There are those who are just there to use her. She tries to help herself, but doesn’t know how. You will find yourself wanting to reach into the pages of the book and smack the crap out of her parents more than once..

This book has caused quite a controversy in my very (read VERY) small hometown. Mr. H, the aforementioned teacher — who had been one of Monica’s mentors — was incensed at his portrayal in the book and did not speak to Monica for months after she sent him a proof. She composed a long email to him, explaining everything to him and attempting to make amends shortly after the book’s publication. What she did not know was that the day she sent the email, he passed away very unexpectedly. She has stayed in communication with a few people in town and sent flowers, but has not visited since.

I have to admit, as someone who knew Monica as a teenager, I had no idea what was going on in her life. I always thought she was very put together and incredibly talented. To think that she was going through all of these horrible things right under my nose shocks me. If you only think horrible things can happen in the big cities, read this. It’s funny, sad, shocking, depressing, and ultimately shows that only by staying on the outside of the casket can you begin to make anything any better.

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