The Funeral Ladies of Ellerie County

With The Funeral Ladies of Ellerie County, Claire Swinarski (What Happened to Rachel Riley?) presents her first adult novel, a poignant yet refreshing story centered on the bonds of family, food, faith, and small-town communities.

At the helm is Esther Larson, an 82-year-old Wisconsin widow, mother, grandmother, and "the nicest lady in the world. The definition of salt of the earth." Esther and a group of local women, known as the "funeral ladies," have shared a bond for decades, providing luncheons for the bereaved in the basement of St. Anne's Catholic Church. When the funeral ladies learn that Esther's been conned out of $30,000, they--along with Esther's family--devise a plan to write a local cookbook. Can they raise enough funds to save Esther's home?

Along the way, Esther serves a pie at the funeral for the wife of celebrity chef Ivan Welsh that wows him enough to take notice. After Ivan and his Chicago-based adult stepson, Cooper, and Cricket, the 13-year-old daughter Ivan shared with his late wife, visit the town for the burial, they decide to stay. They rent an Airbnb from Esther's granddaughter Iris, who falls for Cooper, a former paramedic who now works "flipping pancakes" at the local diner. However, Cooper harbors a secret that impinges upon his life. Will it affect Iris's life, too?

Swinarski threads the answer throughout serious themes--underscored by tenets of love, acceptance, and forgiveness--throughout this tenderly drawn story that holds multigenerational appeal. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

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