The Black Bird of Chernobyl by Ann McManThe Black Bird of Chernobyl by Ann McMan is a dark southern humor existential crisis of a romance.

Cookie hater Lilah Stohler works at the family mortuary and cannot stand the thought her dad has hired the Betty Crocker of funeral homes. Worse, the new woman’s name is Sparkle. Lilah has never sparkled, has never wanted to sparkle and embraces her total lack of sparkleness.

While spurning every offer to taste one of Sparkle’s hugely popular ginger chews, Lilah has a run in with a pimply faced punk who makes her suddenly and horribly Instagram famous. Her descent into profitable notoriety for the Diva of Death, aka Black Bird of Chernobyl, does give Lilah a platform to promote carbon neutral burial systems, and opportunities to fall for the annoyingly upbeat Sparkle.


Being entertainingly educational is a trick, and the author pulls one out of the hat with a treatise on the state of Big Money death and options that are great for the pocketbook and the environment. The southern setting allows for a particular kind of humor that sees, for example, a vastly overpopulated funeral for an extreme ironing champion, or dangerous old ladies in giant cars trying to park on a crowded street. It’s a very particular style of humor, situational and outlandish and difficult to get right. The author’s continuous onslaught of often mortuary based or wide ranging pop culture humor is impressive, and funny.

Pros And My Favourite Parts

The unrelenting humor never failed to please me or make me laugh out loud. There are one liners, situational humor, puns, and many references to sometimes obscure historical figures that had me gladly looking them up so I could get the joke. Most of the humor is easily accessible and funny, and I enjoyed the fast and witty dialogue.

Several chapters began with a lengthy obituary, marking a change in direction for the plot. These are also imbued with a southern humor and give insight into the book’s cultural setting. Some of them are funny but one is absolutely heartbreaking. The breadth of emotions in this book is impressive, from Liliah’s existential journey from the shadows of the mortuary basement and her chosen darkness, to finally embracing the world and Sparkle’s not so clueless sunny nature. There are several different kinds of love on display beyond romantic, and I enjoyed every bit of it.

Heads Up

It is set in a funeral home, but that is not what causes a heartbreaking moment at one point.

The Conclusion

Death may be the family business, but even darker than goth Liliah supplies a comforting and respectful environment for grieving loved ones. She is not happy when her father hires Sparkle Lee Sink to brighten the place up, with her sunny personality and addictive and wildly popular ginger chew cookies. Lilah reluctantly and slowly falls for Sparkle as she navigates sudden, unwanted Instagram fame and growing business responsibilities.

There’s a lot going on in this book that is unrelentingly funny and family oriented. A reader will learn about a peculiar part of the country and how the modern death industry could better serve people and the environment with carbon neutral burial systems. The romance proceeds at a steady pace evolving from an unthinkable match to a life affirming bond.

Excerpt from The Black Bird of Chernobyl by Ann McMan

“If memory serves, Mrs. Shoaf died of peritonitis. Correct?”

“Yes. But how is that relevant?’

“I suspect she ate too many of these. They reek of noblesse oblige and too much nutmeg. A fatal combination, in my view.”

Sparkle finally took the hint and lowered the cookie. “Does everything with you have to be a contest of wills?”

“Let me think . . . Yes.”

Sparkle sighed and returned the cookie to the baking pan. “At least the Shoafs will appreciate these.”

“The Shoafs? You mean you’re serving these?”

Sparkle nodded.


Another nod.

“At a service?”

“Of course. They requested them.”

“Cookies? At a viewing? Since when do we serve confections during a visitation?”

“Since Kay Stover approved it.”

“Kay . . .” Lilah couldn’t finish her sentence. She held up a hand. “I need a moment.”

Sparkle transferred all the hot cookies to a serving tray and covered them with a festive hand towel.

“You take all the time you need. I’ve got to hustle. The doors open in fifteen minutes. And I must say, Rita Kitty did an exceptional job on Mrs. Shoaf. She looks just like her photo in the church directory. I thought backcombing was a lost art. That woman is an artist.” She picked up the tray. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go make sure Hambone didn’t ‘fix’ the punch again. Last time, he spiked it with a pint of Old Grand-Dad—which, if you ask me, doesn’t mix well at all with Crystal Light.”

Lilah suddenly felt like she’d folded space and ended up in the middle of a Smurfs remake of Little Shop of Horrors.

“Ms. Sink?” Lilah waited until Sparkle turned around to face her. “We’ll talk about all of this later. But if you ever call me ‘honey’ again, I’ll rip out your intestines with an unsterilized trocar wand. Understood?”

Sparkle stared back at her with an unreadable expression, before quietly retreating from the kitchen.

Get It Online

When you use the links in this review and buy within 24 hours of clicking then we get a small commission that helps us run the site and it costs you nothing extra











Bits and Bobs

ISBN number: 978-1-61294-288-9

Publisher: Bywater Books

Ann McMan Online


If you enjoyed The Black Bird of Chernobyl by Ann McMan then you should also look at

Bachelorette Number Twelve by Jae










Note: I received a free review copy of The Black Bird of Chernobyl by Ann McMan No money was exchanged for this review. When you use our links to buy we get a small commission which supports the running of this site