Reviewed by Thomas L. Weck (Ethiopia 1965–67)
Posthumous begins by revealing the resolution of the principal event of the story — the slow death of 12-years old Ellie’s mother, Etta, from cancer. Rather than focusing on the “suspense” of whether the Etta will live or die, it centers on the gamut of emotions that Ellie and her father, Calvert, experience as they watch Etta fight bravely against the inevitable. It is written with powerful emotion and compassion. It is almost impossible not to tear up on some of the truly magnificent prose that permeates the story. The bravery that Ellie and Calvert exhibit as witnesses to this tragic event mirrors the bravery of Etta’s fight against it. For any child who must bear witness to such an event, Posthumous is a compelling testament and exploration of how a child copes with the tragic death of a loved one — in this case, a mother. The fact that I read this book in one sitting is a further statement of how emotionally absorbing the prose was in drawing the reader in.
The book also shows how an unflagging determination by Ellie to fulfill her mother’s most fervent wish succeeds at the very end. It is a great lesson for adolescents to never give up on a dream no matter how bleak the odds may seem at the outset.
As an added “benefit,” without being in any way didactic, the book is replete with explaining the definition of words to young minds that are undoubtedly encountering such words for the first time. This is accomplished with great skill and economy and becomes a grammar lesson in its own right.
Thomas L. Weck (Ethiopia 1965-67) is a nationally award-winning author of a series of children’s books entitled the Lima Bear Stories.