Unrest by Emma Côté

At under a hundred pages, Unrest by Emma Côté is a slim, unassuming volume. But it’s a funny, tragic, uplifting adventure, containing far more story and heart than one might expect in such a short book. Mylène Andrews is a successful mortician, having built her own business after cutting ties with her mother. Her life is devoted to her work, but she holds her role in the ceremonies of death as an important and fulfilling one. And then her mother dies, leaving everything to Mylène – including a set of unsent postcards her mother wrote from a series of cemeteries around the United States. Mylène is unsure what her mother was trying to communicate, but she cobbles together an idea: she’ll retrace her mother’s journey and read each postcard in the cemetery her mother wrote it in. Setting off in her work vehicle, a hearse, Mylène finds herself on a journey of reflection, healing, and unexpected surprises throughout.

“Written in an engaging, chatty style, Mylène is an endearing narrator.”

This is such a tender novel. Written in an engaging, chatty style, Mylène is an endearing narrator. Her observations of road trips, friendships, and generally modern life are amusing, and her deep emotional maturity and care for her work as a mortician are lovely. Death is a frequent topic throughout the novella, understandably, but it’s through a lens of wanting to demystify the process and normalize frank discussion of death. Through Mylène, Côté sheds a new, spunky light on some of the classic traditions and stances of the Western world, and makes them new again.

Unrest is a thoroughly enjoyable novella, light and unusually funny despite its serious set of topics: estrangement, death, and learning to forgive. Perhaps an unusual pick for summer reading, but it’s got the right spirit. I wholeheartedly recommend you pick it up and join Mylène’s journey.


Emma Côté is from a small town in Northern Ontario, where the winters were long but the books were aplenty. As a result, she went on to study journalism, English literature and creative writing and most recently completed a postgraduate certificate in publishing. When Emma isn’t re-reading or re-writing a novel, she can be found taking walks in the forest, and asking people if she can pet their dog. Unrest is her debut novel.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Anvil Press (April 1 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 128 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1772141909
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1772141900

Alison Manley has ricocheted between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia for most of her life. Now in Halifax, Nova Scotia, she is the Cataloguing and Metadata Librarian at Saint Mary's University. Her past life includes a long stint as a hospital librarian on the banks of the mighty Miramichi River. She has an honours BA in political science and English from St. Francis Xavier University, and a Master of Library and Information Studies from Dalhousie University. While she's adamant that her love of reading has nothing to do with her work, her ability to consume large amounts of information very quickly sure is helpful. She is often identified by her very red lipstick, and lives with her partner Brett and cat, Toasted Marshmallow.