The Undertaker's Assistant

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 02 Aug 2019

Member Reviews

I did not finish this book because I just had a hard time getting into it. I just don't think I was the right reader for the book.
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It really started well, I loved Effie's strong woman character. But then she started being annoying after she met Greene. I'm not sure how you go from level-headed strong sung woman to lovesick bird like that. It really made me lose interest in the story.
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I wish I hadn’t let this book sit on my TBR for so long. This is my sweet spot of American historical fiction around the Civil War era. I really enjoyed this book was unique from many I have read. It was set in New Orleans post Civil War and the protagonist was a former slave. It has action, learning about oneself, politics, and romance. It was a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience.
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This one is different than your usual Civil War book. Set during Reconstruction-era New Orleans, the cast of characters especially Effie Jones, a former slave who escaped to the Union side as a child will make you sit up and take notice . Taken in by an army surgeon and his wife during the War, she learned to read and write, to tolerate the sight of blood and broken bodies. Things that are just not the norm for women and especially women of this time period Effie is not afraid to get involved in and becomes an undertakers assistant. 
She returns south as a free woman to New Orleans and becomes an embalmer, her skills make up for the lack of competence of her employer.
Despite the difficulties Effie faces in her life she shows a quite and unmatched inner strength no one can fault.
Deals with racial turmoil, uncertainty revolving her relationships with state legislator Samson Greene, and a beautiful young Creole, Adeline. 
There is a goal to all of this as suppressed memories all come back to her at the end despite trying to block it as she tries to seek out her kin.
Quite the unexpected ending I just didn't see it coming. A must read, this historical kept me memorized through out as I turned the pages. The author has a captivating writing style.

Published July 30th 2019 by Kensington Publishing Corporation
I was given a complimentary copy. Thank you.
All opinions expressed are my own.
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Set in the reformation post Civil War New Orleans I thought this was good.
 I love anything about the Civil War and this book was no exception.
 As in most historical novels that I read I learned a lot from this book. I never tire of saying I learn from books because I do. If you ever wonder how most things get started and affiliate in today's world this is a wonderful way to start.
The author has a cool style to her writing. I love how she engages her readers from the beginning. Even though the subject of  embalming bodies isn't my favorite topic of discussion. It still was some great reading. 
Wonderful Characters, supporting characters and a great plot! 
Effie is an amazing character. I love her strength, stamina and endurance. Plus we can't forget her sweet sense of humor. I  don't blame her for wanting to "find herself."  I felt of Effie's emotions coming through this book. It has been a pleasure watching Effie grow into the young woman I knew she could be. Along with the help of her friend Adeline she learns what loving another person really is. 
Ever hear that old saying that the dead can't hurt you, only the living can." This is so true. But I will say this the dead can make you hurt yourself if you let it. 
 I don't think I'd want that type of job. I'd be afraid of what would happen! I guess back in those days you have to take what jobs you can get however unpleasant.  
I also enjoyed learning about the people who lived in New Orleans and the history although I couldn't understand the language that was being said even though I knew it was spoken in French since that city was settled by the French people. 
I strongly recommend this  book by Amanda Skenandore She's truly a wonderful storyteller.
My thanks to Netgalley. NO compensations were received and all opinions are my own
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Not as powerful as Skenandore's debut novel, Between Earth and Sky, but still touching and enlightening. Effie was a great character and I loved the development of the side characters as well. Skenandore is amazing in her attention to detail and historical research. I'm eager to see what else she can produce.
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I'm going to have to be honest and say that I didn't like this book. It's just not my cup of tea. I couldn't like the characters (I tried), I didn't care for the plot...maybe it's just the same old, same old....I 😢 don't know. Please don't judge this book from my feelings, most people liked it!  
I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley. 
All opinions are my own.
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In war ravaged New Orleans, Twenty one year old Effie Jones is trying to search out her roots. Having escaped slavery as a child with the help of  Union officer, Captain John Kinyon and his wife, Effie was taught how to be an embalmer. Intending to seek out employment in New Orleans, Effie approaches Colonel Whitmark, the local undertaker, who is an Alcoholic. Being employed as the undertaker's assistant, Effie puts all of her energy into her work and finds little time for socializing. Out on an errand, Effie runs into Samson Greene, an activist that is trying to get needed changes made. Over time, Effie begins going to the representatives meetings to see Samson. Effie begins to fall in love with Samson but will he return her love? Author Amanda Skenandore, has written a remarkable book that  describes the post civil war reconstruction era. Extremely well written this novel touched all of my emotions. I look forward to reading more of this brilliant authors works!
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The Undertaker's Assistant is a story set during Reconstruction in New Orleans. Effie, a former slave, was rescued during the war by a Union doctor and spent the next 10+ years learning the embalming trade. When she leaves her adoptive home in Indiana to return to New Orleans in search of her past she is able to work and friends. 

Effie reaches out to here teacher's former colleague who while a southerner was on the side of the Union. She proves herself to be a better embalmer than him and starts to make a life. Effie decides that she wants to remember her life before the age of seven, when she found the Union Army. Through the help of a "medium", new friends of the local Republican Club, and a Voodoo Queen, Effie begins to remember some of the important parts of her slave life. 

This story takes place as the white southerners begin to really push back against the power of the former slaves and the carpetbaggers. A few of the events in the book are based on actual events during this time. Reconstruction is not a part of history that is really covered in school so this type of book just makes me more interested in finding out more about what actually occurred.
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The Undertaker’s Assistant takes place in Reconstruction Era New Orleans.  This is a particularly interesting and stressful period and location in American History.  Not only were racial tensions building following the Civil War, but the women’s suffrage movement was attempting to gain national momentum.  While the country remains ideologically divided and legally united, its citizens are attempting to reestablish the new American identity and build a society of people with diametrically opposed beliefs.  

In this novel we meet Effie, a southern born slave, rescued by the northern army as a child.  At the beginning of the story, Effie has just arrived in New Orleans from Indiana and does not remember much of her life when she lived in the South.  Despite her birthplace, she is viewed and mostly identifies as a “Yankee,” further separating her from the people she is surrounded by.  Add to that, Effie’s aloof personality and  lack of emotional connections, and she is almost always an outsider looking in.

For most of the first half of the book,  I found it very difficult to get invested in Effie and her story.   Though the situation was full of dramatic events and heart wrenching depictions, I didn’t feel connected to Effie.  For some people, that wouldn’t be a problem, but I’ve learned that I really need some sort of emotional connection to the characters in order to really get engrossed in a book. I honestly believe the author made Effie unreachable on purpose, because she really was unapproachable for everyone in the book as well.

Slowly, as Effie begins to open up, so does the book.  It comes to life as more characters begin to join Effie’s journey, making it take a different shape and feel.  With Samson romance and passion is discovered, with Adeline friendship and betrayal, and with Tom, loyalty and kinship with the possibility of more.  It was interesting to read about a woman finding herself in the midst of a country finding itself.  No one quite knows who they are or who to be.

This was a very interesting and enjoyable book, especially after the first 100 pages.  Once it really gets going, and hits its stride, it’s almost impossible to put down.

Special thanks to Amanda Skenandore, HF Virtual Book Tours, and Kensington Publishing Corp. for a copy of The Undertaker’s Assistant in exchange for an honest review.
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Well written historical fiction with engaging characters and descriptions of post-Civil War New Orleans. Escaped slave Effie Jones returns to New Orleans to work as an embalmer. A little slow to start, but definitely worth the read.
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An intense historical novel set during the reformation after the Civil War. A young slave child escapes into the hands of a yankee  doctor during during fighting. She becomes his ward and returns home to Indiana with him to be trained as his assistant and eventually learning the undertaking trade. As an adult she leaves him and travels home to New Orleans in hopes of finding family connections. Unfortunately she has virtually no memory before age 7. Effie is on a heart rendering journey to find herself among the unstable political climate in the south. Their she practices her trade as an undertakers assistant and expert embalmer. I appreciated the historical content much more than the details about how to embalm a body. Effie is a strong and sympathetic negro woman living in impossibly cruel times.
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Did not not write a review for Goodreads. Rated three stars. Could not become engaged in the characters or their relationships
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What a great read! 
This is the story of Effie Jones, a former slave and freedwoman. She becomes an undertakers assistent in New Orleans shortly after the civil war, she falls in love with a black leader en become friends with a creole fortune teller. A very good story of survival and so very very out of my comfort zone. But i loved every word of this book! The Undertakers Assistent both entertained and educated me. Amanda's very well researched novel sucked me right into this post civil war period. She brought the  characters to life with an unbelievable amount of knowledge. The setting of New Orleans in the 1870's and Effies profession as an embalmer are truly fascinating. The medical details made the story even more interesting for me, described so vividly you almost looking over Effies shoulder while she does the embalming process. Fun detail for me (since English is not my first language), Amanda used a great deal of French in the book , i did not had to look those words and sentences up. Some English words and expressions did require a little investigation. For example Yellow Jack? In the context of the story I would say yellow fever. Anyway, highly recommended !
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Set in post Civil War New Orleans, The Undertaker's Assistant is a riveting historical that captivated me from the start. 

New Orleans is trying to bounce back after the war and recession when Effie arrives looking for work. Her skill and talent for embalming quickly lands her a job. Havig been taught the process at a young age from an Army Sargent that took her in as a child, Effie is more comfortable among the dead than she is with the living. Her penchant for calling things as they are and her unwillingness to deal with fools made me adore her, and her intelligence and strength were inspiring. I loved her! I really enjoyed the bits of her past life that were peppered throughout the book. 

My favorite part of the book was when the embalming process was described. It's not for the faint of heart, but I didn't know much about it so I enjoyed learning. 

Skenandore does a remarkable job with bringing post-war New Orleans to life. It's a book that is meant to be savored like a fine wine. You know you read a good book when you still think of the character months or years later and I know I will still be thinking of Effie for a long time to come. Highly recommend!
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First of all, thank you for allowing me the privilege of reading your book.  I enjoyed the story very much and found the characters to be likable, entertaining and real.  Effie's journey from the North back to New Orleans to become an undertaker's assistant is inspiring, especially for a black female in the aftermath of the Civil War where she still has to deal with discrimination and segregation.  Her response to the threats and abuse shows what a strong person she is.  Effie seems like a wonderful young woman who knows what she wants and gets it, although she seems a bit uninformed about love and therefore reaches out to a friend for some advice, since she's fallen for a State Representative, who is more of a lady's man than a one woman man.  When she is betrayed by her employer she lashes out in a somewhat comical way, she's got a great sense of humor.  I liked that part and thought it a daring act Effie did and laughed out loud when I read it.  That doesn't happen to me often, so kudos to you!  I had one big problem with the book and that was the amount of French conversation that went on.  I don't speak French and didn't feel the need to read it side by side with a French/English dictionary.  I feel like I missed out on a lot of dialogue because I had no idea what they were saying.  I realize New Orleans was founded by the French and that was the main language spoken, that and Creole, but I think if there would have been either less of it or even a translation would have helped.me.  Other than that, I enjoyed every word and learned some facts about New Orleans and the problems they faced after the war that I didn't know prior to reading the book.  I love historical fiction and feel this book satisfied my thirst for the genre,  It had it all, drama, romance, history, and even a bit of humor.  I look forward to future books by this author.
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This book had been on my radar since early in the year and I am so excited and thankful to Netgalley and Kensington Books for providing me with the opportunity to read and review it!

I absolutely love that the author writes about perspectives of historical fiction that are often brushed aside. While Effie is an incredible young woman, she is very much trying to find herself and her place in this world. I can’t imagine how tough it would be to return to the area in which she was enslaved as a child and even years later was not always a friendly place for her to be. I also loved that she’s an incredibly deep and unpredictable person. The depth of Effie that the author captured was something you don’t see often.

I rated this book four stars because of the depth of the characters, the tension and the beautiful (and tragic) story line that was artfully crafted. Any time Amanda Skenandore writes a book, it’s on my list to read as soon as it comes out. I always know I’ll be completely immersed in the world, the well-being of the characters and really taking away a different perspective of life that I can learn from.
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This was ok,not as good as I thought it would be,a little drawn out. The story as good and she was in search of something,and found it,but I guess I didn't enjoy it as much add I thought I would! Try it just cause I didn't care for it doesn't mean that you wont!
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The author has ingeniously imagined, richly portrayed, and brought to life a fantastic protagonist.
I admit I wasn’t drawn to the idea of taking a journey with an undertaker’s assistant, however the striking cover drew me in. The expert writing kept me riveted, wishing I had the time to read it all at once. I felt transported to post civil war New Orleans. The balance of plot development, character development, and descriptive detail was just perfect, almost poetic even.
So glad I put this book on my summer reading list.
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Effie Jones was born a slave before she escaped to Union lines where she was taken in by an army surgeon and taught the trade of embalming as the ward of the surgeon and his wife.  Now, ten years after the war Effie is compelled to leave  the only home she remembers and travels to New Orleans.  Effie knows that there might not be many opportunities for a young freedwoman, but she takes a chance by knocking on the door of Mr. Whitmark, the local Undertaker and a former Union soldier. Mr. Whitmark takes Effie on and while improving the shop, Effie tries to find where she fits in.  Effie quickly falls for the orator and state legislator Samson Greene and becomes involved in his political committee fighting for rights.  Effie also finds an unlikely friend in Adeline, a Creole who teaches Effie social graces in return for help with her tricks of the spiritual trade.  However, Effie is looking for more than friendship and love, she is looking for what she forgot before she was found in the Union camp, a family to miss her when she is gone.  The answers Effie is looking for might be closer than she thinks.

Thoughtful and distinctive, The Undertaker's Assistant is a historical fiction novel of Reconstruction era south that intelligently weaves together the experiences of a freedwoman and a woman on a journey of self discovery.  I was easily able to connect with Effie's character and the turbulent but exciting times in Reconstruction-era Louisiana.  Effie also shows the unique lens Undertaker and the very well researched practice of embalming. The impact of the Civil War left it's mark on more than just the freed slaves and the soldiers.  Effie's employer, Mr. Whitmark, a southerner who fought for the Union is treated as an outcast even though the Union won.  Adeline is a Creole whose family has been hit by the economic downturn.  There is also Sampson Greene who has found his calling in helping others to rise above and using his freedom for political action.  With this diverse cross-section of people in one place, I can feel the tension rising over the course of the story.  In addition to the setting, Effie's search for herself and ties to her own culture drive a second story line.  Effie's quest to discover her roots and the people from her past was heartfelt and emotional.  Throughout the story there is a foreboding foreshadowing that something traumatic has happened in Effie's past,  I enjoyed the unraveling of the mystery within Effie's mind as her travels revealed hidden memories locked in her mind.  

This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
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