Washing The Dead - Michelle Brafman

Barbara Blumfield, a big-hearted suburban Milwaukee mom and preschool teacher, was seventeen years old when her mother’s affair ripped her family from their Orthodox Jewish community. When the rabbi’s wife summons Barbara to perform the ritual burial washing of her beloved teacher, she walks back into the spiritual and emotional home her mother burned down. Exhuming generations of secrets is the only way Barbara can forgive her estranged mother and in turn spare her daughter their crippling family legacy.

Washing the Dead was listed in Book Riot’s 100 must-read books about women and religion and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Best Books of 2015 and was the recipient of the Wisconsin Library Association’s Literary Award.


“A fast–paced and compelling debut novel.” — LIBRARY JOURNAL

“A heartfelt story of loss, hope, and reconciliation. (Brafman) captures the complex essence of the mother-daughter relationship with honesty and sincerity.” — BOOKLIST

“Intimate, big-hearted, compassionate and clear-eyed, in this novel Brafman turns secrets into truths and the truth into the heart of fiction.” — AMY BLOOM, author of Lucky Us

“Brafman’s tale of three generations of women shows that woundedness—damage to mind and soul—can travel down the generations, and so can kindness, courage, and ultimately, self-healing.” — HAARETZ 

” . . . (a) beautifully wrought novel, one in which Brafman examines the inner lives of her characters with the dexterity of a surgeon and the compassion of a saint.” — LILITH MAGAZINE 

“Truly an enjoyable book.” — LAKE EFFECT (WUWM/NPR)

“Gripping story.” — [PANK]

“This is a beautifully written novel about love, redemption, family and forgiveness.”— READ IT FORWARD


“Striking debut novel.” — THE JEWISH NEWS WEEKLY

“Heartfelt and genuine, Michelle Brafman’s Washing the Dead never betrays the complicated truths of family and tradition.”                        — DAVID BEZMOZGIS, author of The Betrayers

“From roots in one religious tradition, comes a tale of emotional redemption for all of us. Brafman’s astonishing compassion for all human frailty infuses this story about the need for truth and the promise of forgiveness.” — HELEN SIMONSON, author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

“Brafman has written a charming and original spiritual page-turner about love, forgiveness, and family life.” — SUSAN COLL, author of The Stager

“With the knife blade of her prose honed razor sharp, Michelle Brafman skilfully dissects the bonds of mother-daughter relationships.” — FAYE MOSKOWITZ, author of A Leak in the Heart and Her Face in the Mirror: Jewish Women on Mothers and Daughters

Washing the Dead made me ache. . . Barbara Blumfield’s longing is palpable on every page. . . What a spectacular debut!”                              — T. GREENWOOD, author of Bodies of Water

 “How do we begin to forgive those who injured us? Start by reading Michelle Brafman’s unflinching and inspiring novel.”                               — MARY KAY ZURAVLEFF, author of Man Alive!

“An illuminating and intricately layered novel about the complicated legacies that pass from mother to daughter, and about the ways that understanding our own history helps make us who we are.” — CAROLYN PARKHURST, author of The Dogs of Babel

“Michelle Brafman has done us all a true mitzvah by writing this beautiful book.” — ROBERT BAUSCH, author of A Hole in the Earth

“Brafman offers a fresh, vital narrative about guilt, love, loss, and the necessity of wrestling with the dark angel of a painful family legacy until it blesses you.” — MARGARET MEYERS, author of Swimming in the Congo


  • Kojo Nnamdi Show
    Lake Effect (WUWM/NPR)
  • Country Connection, WKTI Country, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • FOX 6 Wakeup, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • WTMJ Live at Noon with Vince Vitrano – Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • The Jerry Bovino Show, Grass Roots Television, Aspen, Colorado






For all inquires regarding Skype or live visits to your book club, please contact Michelle directly at michellebrafman@gmail.com.