When We Were Ghouls

Amy E. Wallen’s childhood was different than most little American girls from Nevada. Thanks to her dad’s job as an oil prospector, the family spent her formative years in Nigeria, Peru and Bolivia, where daily life was kissed by exoticism: parrots for pets, servants calling her “small sister,” and dead bodies. Many of them. Wallen’s memoir, “When We Were Ghouls,” which opens with an incident of what seems in retrospect to be grave-robbing, traces her family’s relationship with the deceased (and with each other). The book is funny and sweet, not gloomy and macabre, combining the charms of good travel writing with illuminating introspection: a delightful read.

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