The first of my cemetery books in 2017 was Lincoln in the Bardo, the first novel by the acclaimed short story and essay writer George Saunders. Called experimental fiction, the book patches together historical truths about the death of Abraham Lincoln's young son, Willie, with a lively chorus of voices of the dead from many different time periods and backgrounds. The book is original and inspiring and completely takes place in a graveyard.
Next was The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman which I read last summer and reviewed here. The living boy Bod is raised in a cemetery by the kindly ghosts who are protecting him from the bad man who killed his family and is trying to murder him as well. Gaiman weaves an unforgettable tale set in...you guessed it...a graveyard.
It wasn't until I was wandering through Glenwood Cemetery preparing for a workshop for teachers that I will be leading in the new year, that I noticed this theme in my reading. At Glenwood, the dead are very much present. As Jojo's dying grandma says in Sing, "...That don't mean I won't be here, Jojo. I'll be on the other side of the door. With everybody else that's gone before." She continues, "Because we don't walk no straight lines. It's all happening at once. All of it. We all here at once." The living and the dead co-exist in all three of these novels, as well as Glenwood, a park-like cemetery, where I often go to write. That veil between the living and the dead feels very thin in cemeteries and in these three novels.