Immortality’s a bitch.
Veronica is eternally fifty-one years old with a proclivity for problematic drinking. Like most hormonally challenged women negotiating the change of life, she is a hot mess. To retain her sanity, she attends weekly AA meetings and adheres to a strict diet of organic, locally-sourced, (mostly) cruelty-free human blood from the hospice facility where she works. Her life stopped being fun about a hundred years ago, right about the time her teenage daughter stole her soul and took off for California with a hot, older guy. These days, Veronica’s existence is just that – an existence, as flat and empty as her own non-reflection in the bathroom mirror.
When her estranged daughter contacts her via Facebook, Veronica learns that she has one chance to escape her eternal personal summer: she must find and apologize to every one of the people she’s turned into vampires in the last century. That is, if they’re still out there. With raging hormones and a ticking clock, Veronica embarks on a last-ditch road trip to regain her mortality, reclaim her humanity, and ultimately, die on her own terms.
I can honestly say that Ms Skjolsvik’s vampires are unlike any I’ve read about before–from Veronica’s first (but amazingly, not only, in this book…) rather disastrous attempt at a spray tan to her final showdown with a shadowy division of a federal agency, she kept me on my figurative toes, wondering what in the world was going to happen next and how Veronica would deal with it when it did. Truthfully she isn’t always the most sympathetic character, but she is definitely a compelling one–and goodness, did I feel her pain with her frustration over a single bristly chin hair… 😉
The flashbacks to Veronica’s (Astrid’s, really) past were a nice touch, giving just enough background to move the story along without bogging it down with unnecessary details. Watching her interact with the people she’d turned over the years in the present as well as the past was enlightening, as was hearing how each undead charcter discovered (or didn’t, as the case may be) what was fact and what was fiction where vampires are concerned. (Am I the only one who mused how helpful access to the Council for the Equal Treatment of the Undead and Specialty Books would have been for these people?)
If you’re ready for more mature vampires who like to (try to) keep things a bit tidier than the ones generally found in pop culture and who definitely don’t sparkle (except maybe a little thanks to sweat from hot flashes), give Forever 51 a try!
Rating: 4 stars / B+
I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.
About the author:
A curious thing happens when you have the audacity to call yourself the death writer; people want to talk to you about death. A lot. This is all well and good for those daring types of writers like Mary Roach or Jessica Mitford, but for me it was initially problematic. Prior to declaring my morbid writing intention of exploring death professions during my first semester of Goucher College’s MFA program in 2008, I had little experience with death or grief, not to mention very little social engagement with the living. It wasn’t until after I finished the two years of research for this book that I was officially diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder and went through four months of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy through a research study at Southern Methodist University.
My writing life began in 2005 when I received a fellowship to the San Juan Writers’ Workshop. The instructor, Lee Gutkind, told me not to publish for the sake of publishing, but to publish well. He also informed me that I was a horrible public speaker. Admittedly that stung, but he did like an essay I’d written. It was published in Creative Nonfiction Issue 33 and in Silence Kills: Speaking Out and Saving Lives. In August 2010, I received my MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College and read five pages from my manuscript in front of a packed room without passing out.
As part of my therapy, I was encouraged to join a writer’s group where I would have to read regularly in front of a group, as this was one of my main fears. I am happy to say that I am now an active member of the DFW Writers Workshop in Euless, TX. We meet every Wednesday and I make it a point to read out loud every week.