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Launchpad: Dead Mom Walking, by Rachel Matlow

"This book is perfect. Dead Mom Walking is a deeply funny, incredibly smart, and moving page-turner...I just can’t get over what a stunning achievement it is.” —Zoe Whittall

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This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter and great insight to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.

Today we're launching Rachel Matlow's memoir Dead Mom Walking, which we're particularly excited about after reading their recommended reading list of queer memoirs.

Zoe Whittall writes, “This book is perfect. Dead Mom Walking is a deeply funny, incredibly smart, and moving page-turner...I just can’t get over what a stunning achievement it is.”


Book Cover Dead Mom Walking

The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.

Dead Mom Walking is about how my amazing/beloved/hilarious mother tried to cure herself of cancer with herbs and magic (against my wishes).

Describe your ideal reader:

Loves dark humour, psychological puzzles, and a good book-cry. 

What authors/books is your work in conversation with:

Grief memoirs like The Long Goodbye by Meghan O’Rourke, queer family stories like Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, and TV shows and movies like Transparent and Other People. File it under "Traumedy."

What is something interesting you learned about your book/yourself/your subject during the process of creating and publishing your book?

I learned that I’m a lot more like my mom than I thought ;)

Dead Mom Walking is a funny book about death. Why this approach?

We were always a funny family and that wasn’t going to change just because Mom was dying. If anything, it gave us more material (i.e. our trip to Dying with Dignity so mom could learn how to off herself with helium (if need be), her foray into cannabis oil and ayahuasca, etc). There’s certainly sadness in death and dying, but the truth is that there's also humour in it (like there’s humour in everything). Of course, humour can be a defence, but it can also be a way into talking about hard truths. Dark humour is part of the queer and Jewish traditions!

An important part of any book launch are the thank you’s. Go ahead, and acknowledge someone whose support has been integral to this project.  

I am especially grateful to my editor David Ross at Penguin Canada for seeing the potential in my story and for shining all my “word vomit” until it sparkled. 

What are you reading right now or next?  

I’m reading They Said This Would Be Fun, by Eternity Martis. I’m loving it!



Book Cover Dead Mom Walking

About Dead Mom Walking:

When her mother is diagnosed with cancer, Rachel Matlow is concerned but hopeful. It's Stage 1, so her mom will get surgery and everything will go back to normal. But growing up in Rachel's family, there was no normal. Elaine, an alternative school teacher and self-help junkie, was never a capital M "Mommy"—she spent more time meditating than packing lunches—and Rachel, who played hockey with the boys and refused to ever wear a dress, was no ordinary daughter.

When Elaine decides to forgo conventional treatment and heal herself naturally, Rachel is forced to ponder whether the very things that made her mom so special—her independent spirit, her belief in being the author of her own story—are what will ultimately kill her. As the cancer progresses, so does Elaine's conviction in doing things her way. She assembles a dream team of alternative healers, gulps down herbal tinctures with every meal, and talks (with respect) to her cancer cells. Anxious and confused, Rachel is torn between indulging her pie-in-the-sky pursuits (ayahuasca and all) and pleading with the person who's taking her mother away.

With irreverence and honesty--and a little help from Elaine's journals and self-published dating guide, plus hours of conversations recorded in her dying days—Matlow brings her inimitable mother to life on the page. Dead Mom Walking is the hilarious and heartfelt story of what happens when two people who've always written their own script go head to head with each other, and with life's least forgiving plot device.

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