The Cemetery Keeper’s Wife

by Maryann McFadden

What happens when the line between the past and the present begins to blur…

Rachel Miller is on the cusp of a new life when she moves to Union Cemetery after marrying Adam, the 7th generation cemetery keeper. Though she’s known him only twelve weeks, his tender love seems like a miracle of fate after her years alone.

On her first walk through the lush and silent grounds of her new home, Rachel discovers a stunning monument to Tillie Smith, who died in 1886. Reading the words carved into the stone, “She Died in Defence of Her Honor,” Rachel is overcome by a powerful memory buried deep in her past.

A series of uncanny coincidences linked to Tillie Smith follows, setting Rachel on a journey that grows into an obsession: Why did the murder of a poor kitchen maid at the local seminary become a national sensation? Why were people in town trying to keep her from finding the truth? But most disturbing of all, why was Tillie reawakening a past Rachel chose to bury long ago. A past that could threaten her marriage.

The Cemetery Keeper’s Wife poignantly blends fact and fiction as two women scarred by shame, and separated by more than a century, reach across time to rewrite history.


Why does Rachel choose to bury her past and try to keep it from her husband? Is this fair?

Tillie made some difficult choices in her tough life. How do you feel about some of those?

Shame is a theme throughout the book, affecting Rachel, Tillie, Adam, and others. Do you think they could/should have controlled this? How would their lives have been different if they had not let shame shape their decisions?

Do you believe justice should not have an expiration date? Or do you think that sometimes it’s best to let some things go to the grave?

Some people are uncomfortable with cemeteries. What did you think of the setting of the book? Could you ever imagine living in a cemetery?

Were you at all surprised by the difficulties of women in the Victorian era, which has been romanticized? How far do you think we’ve come since then?

Rachel loves connecting with people who’ve passed through her “finds.” Have you ever found or discovered something from a person in your past?


Why do you feel you were “meant” to write this novel?

How was writing a historical novel different from writing straight fiction?

Was this a difficult novel to research?

What was the most surprising thing you discovered in your research?

You’ve had an unusual publishing journey. Can you tell us a bit about that?

What are you working on next?