Dead Ernest by Frances Garrood

After sixty years of marriage, Annie found herself alone after her husband Ernest’s sudden death.  Concerned she wasn’t grieving properly, her son Billy asked Annie’s local vicar, Andrew,  to visit with her and see if he could find out what was wrong. Andrew agreed and started seeing Annie regularly, listening to talk about her life and how she came to be stuck in an unhappy, abusive marriage. Andrew sympathized with her, being in an unhappy marriage himself.

Frustrated by Andrew’s refusal to tell him anything about his visits with Annie, Billy sends his daughter, Ophelia, for a short visit with her—hoping she will do what Andrew will not. Resistant to the idea of staying with the grandmother she barely knows, Ophelia still agrees to go, and is pleasantly surprised when she and Annie hit it off.  Her decision to stay longer is only partly due to Annie, however… it’s also because she feels drawn to Andrew.

In the weeks that follow, the lives of Annie, Andrew, and Ophelia will be marked by acceptance, heartache, and the promise of a new beginning… and it’s all thanks to the sudden death of Ernest.

I was pleasantly surprised at just how much I enjoyed reading Dead Ernest. I expected to like it, of course, but I suppose I didn’t expect to feel so invested in these characters so quickly. I was immediately drawn in by Annie, needing to understand why she reacted the way she did to Ernest’s death—she seemed more concerned about why he was in a certain area when he died than the fact that he was dead. I was completely engrossed in the story of her life with Ernest—their path to marriage came about in a way I didn’t expect, and it definitely affected the their life together.

The present-day Annie was much different than the Annie of the past, and I really liked her! She had a quirky sense of humor and a defiant streak that was so fun to read. The Annie of the past was full of sadness and weary resignation, and my heart went out to her so often. It made me want to reach into the book and smack Ernest for being so awful to her.

My second favorite character was Andrew. His marital unhappiness echoed that of Annie’s, to a certain degree, and it didn’t take long for me to decide I did not like his wife, Janet, at all. I wasn’t surprised by his immediate attraction to Ophelia, and it was interesting to see how it played out.

Ophelia was an unexpected delight, and she had a lot of common with Annie. I loved the easy closeness they shared, and (surprise, surprise) I quickly found myself disliking her parents for the way they treated her and for causing her to expect their disappointment in all things. I could easily understand why she was attracted so strongly to Andrew, and even though it was problematic, I was really rooting for them as a couple.

In one way or another, all of the main players in this book were afflicted with unhappiness,  and often felt lonely—and I think that’s something we can all identify with in our own lives. Despite that, the book isn’t weighed down with an abundance of these negative emotions. Many lighthearted moments are scattered through the story, as well, giving a much-needed bit of comic relief that had me laughing out loud many times.

I’m glad I had the opportunity to read Dead Ernest, and I doubt I will forget these characters anytime soon.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Sapere Books.

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Author: Frances Garrood
Title: Dead Ernest
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publication Date: March 1, 2018 by Sapere Books
Rating: 3.5 stars

About the Book

No one had expected Ernest to die, least of all Ernest…

Ernest Bentley was a pillar of the community. But when he suddenly dies of a heart attack his wife Annie refuses to have the words ‘beloved husband’ added to his gravestone. Their son, Billy, is exasperated with his mother and worries about how she will cope on her own. Unwilling to take time out of his own busy schedule to take care of her, he enlists the services of the local vicar, Andrew, to keep an eye on her.

Before she knows what is happening, Annie finds herself telling the vicar things she has kept hidden for years. Dark secrets that had plagued her sixty-year marriage to Ernest.

When Annie’s estranged granddaughter, Ophelia, turns up for a visit, the two bond over their mutual contempt for Billy and his controlling behaviour. But when Ophelia meets Andrew, the unhappily married vicar, things start to get very complicated…

What is the truth about Ernest? Why is Annie behaving so strangely now that he is dead? And how can Andrew reconcile his growing feelings for Ophelia with his respect for his marriage and his religion?

Spanning from the Second World War to the present day, Dead Ernest is a poignant, moving and, at times, very funny look at what really goes on behind closed doors in the ordinary lives of ordinary people.

About the Author

“I first started writing as a child; mainly poetry, but there was one horrific novel (mercifully, never finished) in which a woman gives birth to a hideously deformed child in a thunderstorm. While I was bringing up my four children, I began writing and selling short stories to magazines before the enforced immobility following a fractured spine gave me the time to tackle my first novel, Dead Ernest.

My main career was in nursing, but I also trained and worked for many years as a relationship counsellor with Relate. Widowed in 1992, I re-married and now live with my husband in Wiltshire, where I enjoy riding my horse in the beautiful Pewsey Vale, reading, writing, singing in our large church choir and keeping up with my grandchildren. I also write regularly to a prisoner on Texas Death Row and do local voluntary work with homeless and vulnerable adults.

All my books are very strongly relationship-based. My writing has also been affected by my widowhood and my experiences with my Relate clients, and my books sometimes include issues of death and bereavement. Strangely (and not by design) they all seem to include pet animal funerals (not a subject which normally occupies my mind!).”


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