Radish's latest overwrought book tracks five strangers-turned-soul-mates over the course of the titular funeral, posthumously organized by their friend Annie, who died from ovarian cancer at age 56. A package arrives at Katherine Givens's front door and in it are the ashes of her free-spirited, altruistic childhood friend, along with instructions for a procession that will take Annie's closest friends on a cross country trip from Sonoma, Calif., to Manhattan, sprinkling her remains as they go. Just nine days later, Annie's former university colleague Jill, women's crisis savior Laura, cantankerous neighbor Rebecca and her hospice aide Marie join Katherine on the journey during which they learn their eccentric friend's deepest secrets and share many of their own. Most importantly, these unorthodox urnbearers understand the greatness Annie saw in them and attain the courage to act on it. Windswept melodrama marks Radish's prose (e.g. "these moments were the ones Marie needed to keep the tears and gashes in her own soul from washing her out to sea"), but that will not deter readers who relish the idea of women forming bonds when their mettle is tested and finding power and self-actualization in grief, sharing and love.
Once again, Radish celebrates women's inimitable friendships in an ode to sisterhood that will make her many fans rejoice. —Patty Engelmann
Five women honor their friend's last request with a cross-country adventure. Hypertasker attorney Katherine Givin's life changes forever when she receives a brown paper-wrapped package containing a familiar pair of red high-top sneakers. Into these shoes are packed the ashes of her oldest friend-the remarkable Annie Freeman. Before dying from ovarian cancer, Annie planned her own "traveling funeral" with designated stops for the scattering of her remains. She leaves it to Katherine to assemble her closest friends to act as pallbearers for her last hurrah. Knowing that funerals are for the living, Annie intends for Katherine, Jill, Laura, Rebecca and her saintly hospice nurse Marie (who barely know each other) to take a break from their responsibilities to celebrate life and get to know each other. The trip takes the ladies to the places that mattered most to Annie: the Florida Keys, rural New Mexico, New York City. The book is also something of a metaphysical detective story, as the women learn more about Annie in each location, including the long-held secret identity of the man who fathered her two grown sons. Along the way, the fast friends talk, drink, dance, skinny dip in an icy lake and talk a lot more. They also face their own tragedies and realize that it is never too late to dramatically transform their lives for the better. These women warriors are a funny and engaging bunch, but so similarly wise and articulate that it is sometimes difficult to differentiate them. Filled with uplifting messages of the healing power of both laughter and grief, Radish's novel ultimately sags from too much proselytizing at the expense of the story. A life-affirming depiction of female bonding that's often overblown and tiresome.
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