Fred's Funeral by Sandy Day #BookReview

Fred Sadler has just died of old age. It’s 1986, seventy years after he marched off to WWI, and the ghost of Fred Sadler hovers near the ceiling of the nursing home. To Fred’s dismay, the arrangement of his funeral falls to his prudish sister-in-law, Viola. As she dominates the remembrance of Fred, he agonizes over his inability to set the record straight.

Was old Uncle Fred really suffering from shell shock? Why was he locked up most of his life in the Whitby Hospital for the Insane? Could his family not have done more for him?

Fred’s memories of his life as a child, his family’s hotel, the War, and the mental hospital, clash with Viola’s version of events as the family gathers on a rainy October night to pay their respects.

It's my pleasure to be reviewing a thought-provoking novella today. Fred's Funeral by Sandy Day was inspired by her own Great Uncle Fred, who like the fictional Fred served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in World War One. Many thanks to Sandy for sending me a copy of the ebook to read.
When Fred Sadler dies in York Manor Home for the Aged, his passage to the next life is interrupted when he becomes startled by his sister-in-law, Viola and nephew, John as they examine his few possessions. He becomes somehow tethered to them and watches aghast as Viola arranges his funeral and then afterwards as the extended family gather to reminisce he becomes infuriated by her telling his story, particularly as his memories are different from the stories she shares.
Viola's revelations about the past become the conduit for Fred's own memories as the story seamlessly switches from the present to the events of long ago. The relationship between Viola and Fred was clearly strained in life and her desire to dominate the occasion means she is only to keen to discuss his troubles rather salaciously. It quickly becomes obvious, however that Fred's life was a lonely and sad one; his experiences in World War One are only covered briefly but we soon learn they changed him irrevocably.
Following the war Fred was eventually diagnosed with shell shock and sent to live in the Whitby Hospital for the Insane where he was subjected to electroconvulsive therapy. Fred rails at his diagnosis, he didn't come home from the war 'a blithering blanket case or a blankly staring soul like the shell-shocked soldiers in the newsreels.' His own struggles proved more insidious as he struggled to fit in to civilian life on his return from the war as the shame that consumed him led to him becoming a difficult figure to be around, particularly when alcohol was involved - as was often the case. These days it would be recognised that Fred was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder but of course, even today service personnel returning from conflicts still fall through the cracks and don't always receive the treatment they deserve. Though it can be argued that his family may have believed they were doing their best by sending him away, it's impossible not to sympathise with Fred's bitter frustration and despair that he became a burden they suffered occasionally before returning him to the home with a sigh of relief. Their reluctance to spend time with him eventually meant he became little more than a figure on the sidelines at family gatherings - just as Fred's presence at his own wake is unseen by his family, so they were never truly aware of the man he was on the occasions when he was actually with them.
Fred's Funeral is a poignant read, it's about the words unsaid and the opportunities lost, something his great-niece, Dawn realises as they read the letters he wrote and look through his possessions. As much as it's about one man, so it is also about all the Freds who came back from war to a world that never really understood what to do with them. Perhaps what they needed most was to be given the chance to tell their stories. Fred's Funeral is a touching reminder to take the time to listen while we still can. This insightful novella is an engaging and affecting read, I recommend it.

Fred's Funeral can be purchased here.

About the Author
Sandy Day is a recovering chatterbox living in Georgina, Ontario, Canada. She graduated from York University, with a degree in English Literature sometime in the last century. Sandy then took 20 years off from writing to run a gift store and raise a family. Now relationship-free and un-self-employed she finally has time to write and publish.
Sandy is a trained volunteer facilitator for the Toronto Writers Collective’s creative writing workshops. She is a developmental editor and writing teacher who sells dog halters on the side. Tech savvy, a born marketer, entrepreneurial, and a big picture thinker, Sandy is a dedicated indie author, publisher, and book coach.
Website  Facebook  Twitter


  1. Thank you, Karen. It feels like Fred's story is still relevant today.

  2. This is one I need to add to my #TBR x

    1. It's a really touching read and I think will strike a chord with many people x


Post a Comment