Pink was definitely the best color for a coffin lining thought Monica happily as she climbed inside the child-sized coffin. And wasn’t it great that her best friend Julie was the mortician’s daughter? Playing in the cemetery was okay and attending viewings had a certain charm, but nothing could beat the thrill of having the run of the mortuary. Not only could she and Julie play in the coffins, but they also helped clean the building and ride in the back of the hearse. For a little girl with a death obsession, a mortuary was a dream come true.
Monica didn’t really want to be obsessed with death; she just wanted to be happy. Happiness was an elusive goal, though, in a family headed by a brutal, violent father whose favorite hobby was taking home movies of accident scenes (and then showing them at holidays) and a mother who made it clear that Monica had not been wanted. The kids coped in various ways: Monica’s brother Jimmy started drinking heavily at an early age, her sister Joanne struggled with depression, and Monica was a chronic bed wetter. In her child’s mind, death was sort of creepy, but it seemed like an ideal way to get the love and attention she craved (never mind that she wouldn’t actually be around to enjoy it!) plus a cute pink coffin to boot.
As Monica grows up and the family succumbs to divorce and dysfunction, she realizes that she needs to form healthier relationships with her mom and dad, but when Joanne reveals a devastating secret from her childhood, the fragile bonds of family implode. Maybe Monica had an excellent reason to wish herself dead as a little girl. Driving with Dead People is Monica Holloway’s memoir of growing up in a damaged family and the scars that still stay with her.