Monday, December 17, 2018

Review: Open Mic at Westminster Cemetery by Mary Amato


When Lacy wakes up dead in Westminster Cemetery, final resting place of Edgar Allan Poe, she's confused. It's the job of Sam, a young soldier who died in 1865, to teach her the rules of the afterlife and to warn her about Suppression—a punishment worse than death.

Lacy desperately wants to leave the cemetery and find out how she died, but every soul is obligated to perform a job. Given the task of providing entertainment, Lacy proposes an open mic, which becomes a chance for the cemetery's residents to express themselves. But Lacy is in for another shock when surprising and long-buried truths begin to emerge.

The book description fails to mention one important main character - Mrs. Steele, the strict enforcer of the cemetery rules, and not exactly Lacy's biggest fan. Oh, she also happens to be Sam's mother. There are also a myriad of intriguing secondary characters, from sweet Sarah to requisite mean girl Victoria. Who also happens to be Edgar Allen Poe's wife.

And, of course, there is Poe. You know those discussion questions that go something like, "which famous dead would you most like to have dinner with"? Imagine finding out that you could actually spend eternity getting to know that person? Except, of course, that Poe has been suppressed. And the rules say he can't come above ground and speak. And there isn't anything we can do about the rules...right?

There is much more to this delightful read than the description suggests. To start with, it is written mostly in the form of a play, with a few side notes from the author. Don't let the format put you off, it is quite readable even if you aren't familiar with script reading. Each of the characters has a personality, and often a past, that comes out through the course of a few nights. Subthemes of personal responsibility, group responsibility, forgiveness, change, constructive rebellion, family - and, of course, poetry - are threaded throughout. Despite the themes and settings (and Poe), it is never really dark. Hand it off to someone who is looking for something a little different!

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