A Review of THE UNDERTAKER'S ASSISTANT by Amanda Skenandore


Amanda Skenandore’s second novel – THE UNDERTAKER’S ASSISTANT – will be published on July 30th, 2019 by Kensington Publishing Corporation.

As a child, Effie Jones fled the Louisiana plantation where she was a slave and made her way to the Union Army. Throughout the rest of the Civil War, Effie helped a Union Army surgeon doctor the soldiers for their various wounds and illnesses. After the war, the surgeon took Effie North and taught her about the human anatomy and the art of embalming a dead body. As an adult, Effie returns to Louisiana to seek out the past that she has almost completely forgotten. She is also looking for a new beginning. Effie finds work as an embalmer, and her skills help her white employer rebuild his crumbling funerary business. With the help of a spoiled Creole woman and a state legislator who is fighting for the rights of the African Americans, Effie begins to step outside her comfort zone as she gets involved with New Orleans society and social activism.  

I was a huge fan of Amanda Skenandore’s first novel – BETWEEN EARTH AND SKY – and I enjoyed THE UNDERTAKER’S ASSISTANT almost as much. Skenandore brings to life the time period, the social hierarchy, and the city of New Orleans.

I’ll admit my main interest was in Effie’s job as an embalmer – stuff like that fascinates me. I was also intrigued to read the story of a young freedwoman during the Reconstruction Era. The Civil War may be over, but the freedmen and women – as well as other people of color – are still fighting an uphill battle for their rights. Effie’s employer is a Southern who fought for the Union, but his political leanings slowly shift throughout the novel as he does what he deems necessary to please his customers and keep his business afloat. The issues this causes between Effie and her employer adds to the story.

Having spent most of her life in the North, Effie has little in common with the southerners that she encounters. She’s a fish out of water, and her serious personality, rigid self-control, and analytical way of thinking make it difficult for her to make friends and fit in the New Orleans society. Effie is an interesting character, though sometimes her emotional detachment and thought process can be a bit frustrating.

Thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Publishing Corporation for the ARC.