The Undertakers’ Mother is a biographical novel about two people who were raised on opposite sides of the world and who were married because one of them was in great need.
In 1889, newly-married Thomas and Maria Tobin arrive in Marvellous Melbourne from Ireland. They settle in South Melbourne among many of their own countrymen and faith and start a family. Any aspirations to rise above their lowly station in life are quickly crushed with the onset of Depression in the early 1890s. With the discovery of gold in Western Australia, Thomas uproots his family and heads to the goldfields, but ultimately settles in Fremantle.
Melbourne born Alice O’Dowd is growing up in the love and security of her Irish-born parents and siblings in Toorak. Her family is able to rise above the Depression as her illiterate but capable mother takes the opportunity to purchase their first home in Canterbury Road Toorak.
When Thomas’s wife dies in childbirth, Alice’s life changes dramatically and unexpectedly. In answer to Thomas’s request for her ‘hand’, Alice’s parents send her to Fremantle to marry him.
Their story is told lovingly by their granddaughter, Denise Tobin Shine, as though she is sitting on their shoulders. She has skilfully blended fictional characters, with the facts based on their lives who inhabit their 19th and early 20th century world. Finally, in their old-age, they are able take great pride in the success of the family funeral business – Tobin Brothers Funerals – which four of their sons founded in 1934.
The Undertakers’ Mother is a story of love, loss and loyalty and a tribute to the indomitable spirit and endurance of people of their time in history.
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