The Undertaker's Assistant

The Undertaker's Assistant

Set during Reconstruction-era New Orleans, and with an extraordinary and unforgettable heroine at its heart, The Undertaker's Assistant is a powerful story of human resilience--and of the unlikely bonds that hold fast even in our darkest moments."The dead can't hurt you. Only the living can." Effie Jones, a former slave who escaped to the Union side as a child, knows the...

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Title:The Undertaker's Assistant
Author:Amanda Skenandore
Rating:

The Undertaker's Assistant Reviews

  • Maranda

    This is a story set in New Orleans after the Civil War. Effie Jones was a slave who escaped and lived a big part of her life in Indiana learning anatomy and the art of embalming. Looking for her roots she returns to New Orleans and experiences life on her own. Lots of action to experience in this work by Amanda Skenandore. "This book was provided by Kensington Books via NetGalley with no requirements for a review. Comments here are my honest opinion."

  • Angela Sanford

    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

    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!

  • Amy Bruno

    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

    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!

  • Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    I enjoyed Amanda Skendandore’s debut, Between Earth and Sky. She writes beautiful, sweeping historical fiction, and her latest, The Undertaker’s Assistant, also has a mystery plotline to it.

    Effie Jones is an escaped slave who made it safely to the Union as a child. She was adopted by an army surgeon and his family during the war and educated, not just with books. With war-torn bodies.

    Now that she is free, Effie has returned to the south to live in New Orleans as an embalmer. She is working for

    I enjoyed Amanda Skendandore’s debut, Between Earth and Sky. She writes beautiful, sweeping historical fiction, and her latest, The Undertaker’s Assistant, also has a mystery plotline to it.

    Effie Jones is an escaped slave who made it safely to the Union as a child. She was adopted by an army surgeon and his family during the war and educated, not just with books. With war-torn bodies.

    Now that she is free, Effie has returned to the south to live in New Orleans as an embalmer. She is working for a white man but is more skilled. Effie loves her work and she keeps to herself mostly, until she meets a state legislator and a Creole woman, Adeline, who get her involved in activism, parties, and the social set.

    Racial turmoil grows in New Orleans, including violence, and Effie has to find her footing as she experiences loss.

    The Undertaker’s Assistant is a fascinating story, and Effie’s voice was a refreshing one. I’d not known much about New Orleans during the Reconstruction, and I have to admit, Effie’s job kept me interested.

    Effie is a character to champion. She is complex and dynamic, brutally honest, driven, and captivating to watch grow. Overall, Skenandore has given us another solid work of historical fiction with a fabulous main character and an unsettling time in our nation’s history.

    I received a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.

    My reviews can also be found on my blog:

  • Karen Kay

    I received this from Netgalley.com for a review.

    Set 11 yrs after the Civil War. Effie Jones, a former slave who escaped to the Union side as a child. She has returned south to New Orleans and earns her living as an embalmer, her steady hand and skillful incisions compensating for her employer’s shortcomings.

    It was a little rough getting into it but ended up being a very Good story. I liked Effie and how she could be so brutally honest.

    4

    I received this from Netgalley.com for a review.

    Set 11 yrs after the Civil War. Effie Jones, a former slave who escaped to the Union side as a child. She has returned south to New Orleans and earns her living as an embalmer, her steady hand and skillful incisions compensating for her employer’s shortcomings.

    It was a little rough getting into it but ended up being a very Good story. I liked Effie and how she could be so brutally honest.

    4☆

  • ☕️Kimberly

    Effie a former slave escaped the south during the war and, raised as a ward by a couple in the north. At, the tender age of seven she began learning the skills of an embalmer. Now as a young free woman, she has returned to New Orleans, near the place they found her. She finds work as an undertaker’s assistant to a northern sympathizer who’s beliefs, drinking, and unsteady hands have left his business in shambles. She quickly turns things the business around, earning herself a dollar a day.

    She

    Effie a former slave escaped the south during the war and, raised as a ward by a couple in the north. At, the tender age of seven she began learning the skills of an embalmer. Now as a young free woman, she has returned to New Orleans, near the place they found her. She finds work as an undertaker’s assistant to a northern sympathizer who’s beliefs, drinking, and unsteady hands have left his business in shambles. She quickly turns things the business around, earning herself a dollar a day.

    She lives in a boarding house for young women on the colored side of town, and stumbles upon a Ward meeting. Here she hears the charismatic state legislator named Samson Greene speak. It is the first time she feels smitten for a man.

    Through the girls at the boarding house she visits a fortune teller and meets a beautiful young Creole, Adeline whom she eventually befriends.

    There are a lot of firsts for Effie in this story and as she experiences things, the memories of her past sneak back in flashes, smells and more. Effie cannot remember anything before her ward found her beside a river bank where she uttered the words, “I’m lookin’ for da’ Yankees.”

    Amanda Skenandore recreates the dangerous political climate highlighting some darker moments that occurred in Louisiana during this period. She shared the struggles, fear, hatred and determination of these proud people. From social activism to burned marble cake she shared it all.

    I laughed, and I cried right along with Effie. The scenes where she regained her full memories felt very surreal, as did her fear by the river, and in the woods. Mixed in we have romance, betrayal, friendship, family and finding home.

    I would be neglectful if I didn’t mention the darker sides of this tale. There is murder, racial brutality, rape, physical beatings and flashbacks. While none were overly graphic, the author didn’t gloss over these painful truth to our nation’s history. Then we have the embalming details. The geeky side of me found all of this fascinating but once again confirmed my preference for cremation.

    The story offers a glimpse into Effie Jones life and journey as she looks for answers and a place to call home. I laughed, cried, was angered and became emotionally invested in the story as it unfolded.

  • Suzanne Leopold (Suzy Approved Book Reviews)

    Effie Jones was an escaped slave raised by an army surgeon and his wife. During her time in Indiana, she learned to read and write while gaining life skills living with a doctor. She eventually returns to her native New Orleans during the reconstruction era seeking work as an embalmer. Her motivation is to trace her roots and to reconnect with anyone from her family.

    Effie focuses on her work as an assistant to an undertaker and has little time to socialize. Her mindset changes after she meets

    Effie Jones was an escaped slave raised by an army surgeon and his wife. During her time in Indiana, she learned to read and write while gaining life skills living with a doctor. She eventually returns to her native New Orleans during the reconstruction era seeking work as an embalmer. Her motivation is to trace her roots and to reconnect with anyone from her family.

    Effie focuses on her work as an assistant to an undertaker and has little time to socialize. Her mindset changes after she meets Samson Greene and activist who is passionate about changing the culture of the city. Effie starts to experience romantic feelings for Samson but he is not ready for a relationship. In the background, racial tensions in New Orleans begin to spiral leading to a dark period of violence.

    The Undertaker by Amanda Skenandore brings to life a delicate period of U.S. history with her realistic characters and plot line. Effie is an engaging person and I enjoyed watching her navigate through social and personal barriers.

  • Paige

    The beginning of the story is slow to start, and required many recesses on my part in order to proceed. It was difficult to tell where the direction of the story was going at first. It seemed like one activity jumped to something unrelated. But then around 40% of the novel it picked up and I was able to attach myself.

    In this novel, the main character, Effie, reaches to answer the questions- Does emptiness feel better than pain? Is it better to be alone during life or alone after life?

    The story

    The beginning of the story is slow to start, and required many recesses on my part in order to proceed. It was difficult to tell where the direction of the story was going at first. It seemed like one activity jumped to something unrelated. But then around 40% of the novel it picked up and I was able to attach myself.

    In this novel, the main character, Effie, reaches to answer the questions- Does emptiness feel better than pain? Is it better to be alone during life or alone after life?

    The story is very dark, per the title itself, and centers around the motif of death. While the story details Effie's life as an undertaker's assistant in New Orleans as a freedman during the Reconstruction Era, she constantly affiliates her experiences to death itself not only in her thoughts, but shares these thoughts with those around her. The writing style carries dark comedy, which I found enticing and humorous. At times I found myself laughing out loud at Effie's awkward social interactions.

    This historical aspects were my favorite part. Effie is able to tell the story of the Reconstruction Era, in her own unique way as an embalmer, through the party scenes and political organizations. The sociology in Louisiana at this time are best reflected in her relationships which comprised of all shades, budgets, and walks of life. Most of the brutality and violence incorporated was researched on part by the author and is included in the epilogue.

    I recommend reading this book on the Kindle since there is profuse use of anatomical words, historical 19th century vernacular, and French spoken in this novel.

    Many thanks to NetGalley, Amanda Skenandore, and Kensington books for allowing me to read this advanced copy.

  • Chris

    Location: New Orleans

    Time: the post Civil war

    Our heroine: Effie Jones, a young woman, a former slave with quite a history. She is now what is referred to in the book as a “freed woman.”

    As a young girl in Indiana, Effie escaped to the Union side and was taken in by a surgeon in the army along with his wife, who taught her some of the necessary life skills and exposed her to the blood and gore of the war. While some of this is more than what a young girl should see, it has given her the knowledge

    Location: New Orleans

    Time: the post Civil war

    Our heroine: Effie Jones, a young woman, a former slave with quite a history. She is now what is referred to in the book as a “freed woman.”

    As a young girl in Indiana, Effie escaped to the Union side and was taken in by a surgeon in the army along with his wife, who taught her some of the necessary life skills and exposed her to the blood and gore of the war. While some of this is more than what a young girl should see, it has given her the knowledge and experience to becoming an embalmer. It has made her a resilient and strong person in some ways. She does lack some other important life skills, and we read about her struggles with that.

    She is quite excellent at her New Orleans embalming job - her calm demeanor, her attention to detail, her knowledge of anatomy and science. The fact that she is a woman and the fact that she is a “Negress” which is a term used to describe her in the book, makes it difficult for her to be taken seriously by some folks and for her to have a firm confidence in herself. One reason being, she does not know or clearly remember the history of her life before she came to the army surgeon and wife’s care. She remembers bits and pieces, but frustratingly enough cannot put all the pieces together. It’s difficult to be your own true self when you really don’t know who you are at all.

    I was very impressed with her embalming work and the different situations she became involved in. Her perfection, care and compassion for the deceased. Her white employer’s booziness and political and family attachments were always abrading away in the background, but she had a way about herself that she could manage him and saved his reputation many a time by stepping in when he could not perform. This all comes to a head as Effie becomes involved in and with some political and racial activism and falls in love with a captivating speaking and handsome state legislator by the name of Samson Greene.

    Attempting to juggle her job, her employer, her landlady and the women at the boarding house, Samson, the activist group(s), trying to research her past, as well as having and learning about relationships with some unusual friends, she is thrown into some trying personal circumstances which include confusion, betrayals, violence, ignorance, racial turmoil and illegal activity.

    This book was not on my TBR list, it was kind of a “rogue” pick at the library. I’m pleased to say that I’m very happy with my selection and enjoyed reading a bit of important post-history and the life and times of our heroine, Effie.

  • Morgan

    Having lived up North for most of her adult life Effie, newly arrived in New Orleans where she is originally from, gets herself hired by the local undertaker.

    Very shortly thereafter she comes upon a political meeting in the street and falls in love with the speaker.

    This discombobulates her to the extent that she cannot sleep and is making mistakes in her work that was unheard of before.

    She is taken to a séance by her lodger friends although she is aware that such things are nonsense.

    However, she

    Having lived up North for most of her adult life Effie, newly arrived in New Orleans where she is originally from, gets herself hired by the local undertaker.

    Very shortly thereafter she comes upon a political meeting in the street and falls in love with the speaker.

    This discombobulates her to the extent that she cannot sleep and is making mistakes in her work that was unheard of before.

    She is taken to a séance by her lodger friends although she is aware that such things are nonsense.

    However, she later seeks out the séance woman to give her a potion to stop her from being in love.

    By this time I am finding Effie to be really irritating.

    A bit later a couple pages are devoted to Effie buying new boots.

    I saw no reason to go on.

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