The Undertaker's Daughter

The Undertaker's Daughter

The Undertaker’s Daughter is a wonderfully quirky, gem of a book beautifully written by Kate Mayfield.…Her compelling, complicated family and cast of characters stay with you long after you close the book” (Monica Holloway, author of Cowboy & Wills and Driving With Dead People).

How does one live in a house of the dead? Kate Mayfield explores what it meant to be the daughter of a small-town undertaker in this fascinating memoir evocative of Six Feet Under and The Help, with a hint of Mary Roach’s Stiff.

After Kate Mayfield was born, she was taken directly to a funeral home. Her father was an undertaker, and for thirteen years the family resided in a place nearly synonymous with death, where the living and the dead entered their house like a vapor. In a memoir that reads like a Harper Lee novel, Mayfield draws the reader into a world of haunting Southern mystique.

In the turbulent 1960s, Kate’s father set up shop in sleepy Jubilee, Kentucky, a segregated, god-fearing community where no one kept secrets—except the ones they were buried with. By opening a funeral home, Frank Mayfield also opened the door to family feuds, fetishes, murder, suicide, and all manner of accidents. Kate saw it all—she also witnessed the quiet ruin of her father, who hid alcoholism and infidelity behind a cool and charismatic façade. As Kate grows from trusting child to rebellious teen, the enforced sobriety of the funeral home begins to chafe, and she longs for the day she can escape the confines of Jubilee and her place as the undertaker’s daughter.

“Mayfield fashions a poignant send-off to Jubilee in this thoughtfully rendered work” (Publishers Weekly).
  • Gallery Books | 
  • 368 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781476757292 | 
  • July 2015
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Undertaker’s Daughter includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Kate Mayfield. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Introduction

The Undertaker’s Daughter offers a child’s account of the business of death. Kate grew up in a funeral home in southern Kentucky during the turbulent 1960s. Her father, the charismatic Beau Brummel of morticians, splashed onto Jubilee’s segregated community as one of its two white undertakers. A philanderer and a secret alcoholic in a small, God-fearing community, he opened the door of their funeral home to family feuds, fetishes, and victims of accidents, murder, and suicide. The living and the dead entered their house like a vapor, in ways that only the South can conjure. They were a community peppered with flawed characters who learned there are no secrets in a small town, except the ones with which we are buried. This stirring memoir reveals Kate’s extensive research into her father’s life and his time serving in Europe during World War II, including her discovery as to the touching reasons her father chose to become an undertaker.  

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About the Author

Kate Mayfield
Daniel Regan

Kate Mayfield

Kate Mayfield is the author of The Undertaker’s Daughter (a memoir) and the coauthor of Ten Steps to Fashion Freedom and Ellie Hart Goes to Work. A graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Manhattan, Kate lives in London.

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