A conventional coming-of-age memoir within a morbidly unconventional context.
Amid the usual accounts of indie-rock obsession and adolescent sexual frustration, this memoir has more than its share of mysteries to resolve. The first is what exactly Meredith’s father did to lose his college teaching job—something involving sexual improprieties with at least one female student (but not more directly addressed until the memoir’s end and never totally clarified). The second is how the author, once a promising student and athlete, has ended up working with his dad part-time removing the bodies of the recently deceased from their homes. “People ask how I got into the funeral business, the underlying implication seeming to be, Why would you possibly choose it?” he writes. “The answer is that I had not yet developed any choosing skills. I was a broke dummy just as startled as anyone else to find myself picking up bodies.” In between descriptions of his work life—how the bodies felt, how bad some of them smelled—Meredith describes how things weren’t much livelier at home, where his mother stayed with his father despite the scandal but refused to talk to him for more than a decade. Ultimately, everyone moved on, mother and father and sister as well as the author, who finally graduated after continually flunking out of college and earned the MFA that led to this debut. There was also a break from the death business, when the author worked in Beverly Hills, which featured memorable (for him) encounters with the likes of Angelina Jolie but where “crushed Sprite cans were touched more lovingly that year than were my genitals.” Meredith eventually came to terms with his father, with himself and with the possibility of making a deeper connection with live bodies than with dead ones.
Most of what readers might find new or intriguing concerns the process of corpse removal.