Driving with Dead People: A Memoir

by Monica Holloway

Hardcover, 2007





Simon Spotlight Entertainment (2007), Edition: First Edition, 336 pages


At nine years old, Monica Holloway develops a fascination with the local funeral home. Small wonder, with a father who drives his Ford pick up with a Kodak movie camera sitting shotgun just in case he sees an accident, and whose home movies feature more footage of disasters than of his children. In between her father's bouts of violence and abuse, Monica becomes fast friends with Julie Kilner, whose father is the town mortician. She and Julie preferred the casket showroom to the parks and grassy backyards in her hometown of Elk Grove, Ohio, where they would take turns lying in their favourite coffins. In time, Monica and Julie get a job driving the company hearse to pick up bodies from the airport, yet even Monica's growing independence can't protect her from her parents' irresponsibility, and from the feeling that she simply does not deserve to be safe. Little does she know, as she finally strikes out on her own, that her parents' biggest betrayal has yet to be revealed...… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member itsJUSTme
Kind of like "The Glass Castle" only not as good. Bad things just keep happening over and over. You keep wondering, When is her life going to get better, it doesn't, you keep wondering, How can it get any worse, it does! Very Bazaar book, very bazaar life, very depressing, and I don't mind depressing book, normally. But now I think I am going to go read something happy!… (more)
LibraryThing member Lallybroch
I loved this book! It seems that a lot of the memoirs I've read lately have had main characters who did nothing but whine and complain about their terrible childhood and how it wrecked their lives. This was not the case in Driving with Dead People.

Monica Holloway was brutally honest in telling her recollections of growing up, but she was also fair. Her story was told with a matter of factness that was refreshing and often funny. Holloway never pointed a finger at any of her family, nor did she adopt a "you ruined by life" type attitude. Her changing perceptions of her family member's were wonderfully portrayed, and I found my own opinions of her parents, for example, changing over the course of the book.

This memoir was beautifully written and I would recommend it to fiction and non-fiction readers alike, especially those who enjoyed The Glass Castle
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LibraryThing member sunfi
This is the story of a girl from a dysfunctional family, she finds a way to escape her life into a funeral home as a child and then working at the establishment in her teen years. The story took an unexpected twist and I think at that part the writer really stretched herself and her true abilities really came out. Glad I read this one.… (more)
LibraryThing member hammockqueen
although a dark book, Monica Holloway told it with the humor often found in the hurting. Such a tragic family.....talk of dysfunction! I don't know how people even survive these situations. Father an abuser, mother denies any problems and leaves at first chance, leaving kids at home with no money. How can parents do this? Siblings end up with tragic adulthoods as they do all they can to survive.
A really tough book to read and yet not. It was written so skillfully that I had to keep with it. Good luck and blessings in your life, Monica. You surely deserve the best.
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LibraryThing member lizard_qn
I loved this book!! And I am so sad that I have finished it already, because I will miss Monica and her family, her friends, and her life in general. I could read this book again, and probably will eventually, but this is a book that I would love to hear what happens later in her life, besides what is in the epilogue.

This book was recommended to me by a friend, who thought that it was o.kay. I found that the book is more than o.kay, it is awesome! It wasn't what I thought it was going to be, a memoir of crazy high school days made interesting by driving a hearse, it went much deeper than that.

In this memorable memoir Monica tells her story, from childhood into adulthood, in a candid and humorous way, but you also found all of the horrors and felt her pain in her blunt sentences and matter of fact writing. It is not a sugar coated tail of a fairy tale childhood, but a twisted ride through life, where many times she felt dead, worthless, and wanted desperately to dull the pain... she just wanted someone to notice her and care for her in her childhood, and after years of neglect, she found it in many different ways growing up in lonely house, sleeping with a schizo boyfriend who holds a rifle to her head, a grandma who killed her own cat by locking it in the garage with the car running, picking up dead bodies at the airport, cruising down Main street in the hearse, a father who lines the kids up to watch the home videos, which are mixed with images of dying animals and disasters... trying out coffins in the town morturary (her best friend Julie's dad owns the town mortuary)...and ironically enough, a hearse is always in the background, like her ride through life. Until she confronts the abuse and neglect, says good bye to the lost childhood in Ohio, and moves on into her adult life and finds out what love is.

It is amazing she made it through this crazy and twisted childhood and her memoir shows how humor, resiliancy, and determination can make you stronger. Just like the author's picture on the back of the book; shoulders back, head up, smiling, and strong looking. She is a survivor.
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LibraryThing member lcrouch
I thought this book beautifully written and moving. How the author/heroine is able to overcome the family dysfunction and sexual abuse is truly amazing. Her salvation turns out to be the local undertaker's daughter. That family provided a safe a sane haven, possibly without even suspecting the problems in her home. My heart breaks for the brother, who was truly the tragic casualty of this family.… (more)
LibraryThing member maryintexas39
A very moving memoir; at times hilarious and at others heart breaking.
LibraryThing member etxgardener
Memoir of a woman who overcomes her father's abuse & her mother's narcissism to forge a life for herself. This book should be sold in a boxes set with Running With Scissors and The Glass Castle
LibraryThing member burnit99
A memoir by Monica Holloway, who as a child is fascinated by the local funeral home, and with her best friend loves to take turns lying in their favorite coffins in the casket showroom. Hers is a dysfunctional family, with a violent, abusive father and a mother who denies and covers it all up. Monica grows up with a shattered self-image, to say the least, but also a strong survival instinct and a sardonic humor that protects her. She will need this later in life, when she finds out the true extent of her parents' abuse. This is a memoir of family abuse, emotional destruction and the long journey into the light, and I've read many, but this is a good one.… (more)
LibraryThing member ForSix
When I first picked up Driving with Dead People: A Memoir, I was expecting a comedic tale about two friends working at a funeral home. Man, that is so not what this book is all about. This memoir covers Monica Holloway’s life beginning when she was about four years old until she was 43. She writes about what happened in her daily life, growing up with a father who was violent and a mother who was in denial. With parents like that, it’s no wonder Ms. Holloway and her siblings grew up with a certain amount of dysfunction. Oh, and did I mention that she was totally obsessed with the death of a nine year old local girl?

One of the reasons I like memoirs is because it’s the truth as the writer knows it. Is it what really happened? I don’t know. What I do know is it’s what Ms. Holloway believes. She was very inspiring to me from the beginning. I’m amazed at how a person has the strength to overcome something as debilitating as abuse, be it mental, physical or sexual. I don’t know how they get up each and every day and deal with it. How they resist the urge to crawl up in a little ball, buried under the cover and actually get out of bed and face whatever comes to them that day. And that’s exactly what she does. She finds ways to escape, to cope. The most awe-inspiring thing about her is that in spite of how insignificant her parents make her feel, she doesn’t believe it. She may have her doubts, but she’s a fighter.

There are many good quotes in the memoir. Here are some of my favorites:

“The outside now matched the inside – damaged beyond all repair.” Without getting too much into my past, this line affected me the most. It’s one thing to have physical signs of abuse, but it’s quite another to carry it all on the inside where no one knows about it but you and your abuser. I think she explains it best with the following quote:

“I wish there had been obvious signs of destruction on all of us kids: bruises or burn marks, something that indicated how violent our house was, but words and neglect don’t leave visible marks. And that confuses even the person who knows better.”

She had her struggles too, as you can see from this brutally honest quote:

“My whole life, I wanted to be dead, but I didn’t actually do anything about it. I guess I didn’t want to be dead: I wanted relief. I wanted to be happy and peaceful.”

Finally, I think she sums it up nicely with this:

“I would work on trying to forgive myself, and I would ask others for forgiveness too.”

I recommend this book to anyone as a study of resiliency. It doesn’t matter if you were personally touched by abuse in your past. Everyone can learn a little something from this, even if it’s just how to forgive and find your peace.
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LibraryThing member PeggyK49
Even though I thought at first that Driving with Dead People was about someone who worked in a funeral home (and Monica did for a while), I was not disappointed at all. Monica Holloway's memoir was a well written joy to read, even though the subject matter was at times depressing and even horrifying. I bounced between laughter at and sorrow for what she and her siblings went through and at the same time was so thankful that my own life while growing up was so uneventful and safe.… (more)
LibraryThing member librarianshannon
Another memoir. I didn't read the book jacket and somehow got the impression that it would be funny. Growing up around hearses and morticians seemed somehow funny. But when Monica's grandmother gassed her own cat in the first chapter, I knew I wouldn't be laughing for many evenings.

Like many people who tell their story, Monica must have told hers as part of a therapy breakthrough. It's gritty and still a bit raw, but we certainly can't shut her out. It's a rather quick read so give her a few hours of your attention and you just might come away thinking differently about the similarities between life and death.… (more)
LibraryThing member TheLoopyLibrarian
Driving with Dead People is a brutally honest memoir with heart. The author recounts a dreadful childhood without any ounce of self pity. Instead she intertwines happy and humorous memories with the unhappy ones, and the result is good storytelling that ends with hope and possibility.
LibraryThing member mahallett
sad story of family. we all suffer from our families but they give us good things too--usually. we can use the good to overcome the bad. as holloway says the bad are like cracks. we all have cracks. we have to learn how to patch the cracks and keep the building up.
LibraryThing member CarmenMilligan
Very nicely written, but a bit too long for my taste. I think the same story could have been told as poignantly in fewer pages.

This book is, at its heart, about the horrors of childhood with an abusive father and emotionally absent mother. The tales of growing up are difficult to read and the fact that this is a memoir make the words, actions and denial even more bone-crushing. The aftermath of living in this environment proves to be a difficult one to rise above, only two siblings facing the issues head-on to try to move past the hurt and betrayal.

This is a raw, painful and real story that will make you want to protect the children and beat the hell out of the adults.

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LibraryThing member br14kaiho
Driving with dead people was a weird book. It's about a girl named Monica (The author) and her family. Her dad loves to film accidents. A girl that looked just like Monica got hit by a car and died. Monica wanted to know who the girl was so she asked her dad. The kids dad liked to embarrass them. They would be out in public and the dad would randomly pull one of the girls pants down.

When she grew up she went to acting school. She made a lot of mistakes there. She fell in love with a teacher. She dated like 4 different boys. She almost got married but she didn't. Her sister almost killed herself. She goes to an asylum for a while. Her sister confesses a lot of stuff about her dad. Her dad liked to film storms also. Monica ends up getting married eventually. She loses all contact with her other sister and her brother. The whole family was a drug addict. Her brother Jamie and her sister wasted their lives on drugs and parties. Over all I didn't really like the book.
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LibraryThing member francophoney
While we're trained never to judge a book by its cover, it does set the tone of a read before we even crack it open. Driving With Dead People snagged me with its witty title and its back cover featuring a photo of the back of a hearse.

What I did get was a story of a young girl-turned-woman's struggle of growing up with an abusive father, a turn-a-blind-eye mother, and a story of idolization of the main character's dream family... that of the Kilners, who owned the local mortuary.

This book puts the reader at the heart of a broken home and face to face with the emotional distress that goes with such. If you want a happy, uplifting read look elsewhere - otherwise, this is a worthwhile read.
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LibraryThing member ctmsallison
Driving with Dead people by Monica Holloway was a very addicting book. It was very sad at some parts, but you didn't want the book to end. I tried to keep the book for as long as possible, because I didn't want it to end, but the book was just telling me to finish it. All I will say is that the end is very depressing, and your heart leaps into your throat, but it's so good. I would tell anyone to read it. But just a warning, you have to make sure that you know your own maturity level, because there are some very serious issues in this book.… (more)


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Original publication date


Physical description

336 p.; 5.8 inches


1416940022 / 9781416940029
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