Monday, November 17, 2014

The Removers" by Andrew Meredith (2014)

They tell me not to pick a book by its cover; but I keep on doing it anyway. Maybe I've just been lucky, but it seems to work out well for me. The first time it happened was when I read “Moby Dick”; the giant tail on the cover, flailing in the sea and swamping the small whaleboat, promised all kinds of excitement within. And the book delivered beautifully, so I've been doing it that way ever since. I was 11 at the time.

Now this is no Moby Dick; let’s get that straight right from the start. But it has a compelling quality to it which reveals itself as you find yourself turning the next page eagerly. It is the story of the a young man who was cheated out of a portion of his adolescence by his parent’s failed marriage; and it is also the story of how he allowed that loss to rob him of the ability to live and love for many years afterward.

After his father is fired from the university where he teaches; for “inappropriate” behavior with a female student; his marriage to the author’s mother crumbles. No one ever divulges the details of just what his father did; was it a physical relationship, or just becoming too familiar with someone? Or was it what today would be deemed as an “emotional” affair? Silence reigns supreme in his home. No questions are asked and no explanations offered.

Silence never really accomplished much in the way of resolving things; and so it goes with Andrew’s life. He is living among the ashes of what was once a secure home; his mother and father along with his sister were an average family until this one event rocked their world, crumbling its foundation. You have to wonder; as the author does; how solid that foundation was to begin with, and why neither parent seemed capable of even attempting to deal with the problem?

As his father finally settles into a job as a “remover”; someone who removes the body and takes it to the funeral home for final preparations; his son follows suit. As he learns the craft of cremation he draws analogies between his life and the work he performs. He finds that he has shut himself off from all emotions, building a wall which will never reach its full height. No wall could ever be high enough to keep his emotions from spilling out; nor could it ever be high enough to let other emotions in.

After trial and error; coupled with some heartbreak and a trip to the west coast; he finds himself back in the Philadelphia area where he was raised, living with his mother at the age of 27. As he continues to grow he learns about his ability to get beyond that wall and let things flow in and out. He finds answers to the unasked questions which have troubled him; and his father; for so many years.

This is a quickly read and yet deeply written book. The author had to dig deep to write this, and as such it is well worth the read. His conclusion is somewhat like my own; that in the final analysis we all carry our own water. And, as such, we need to be careful not to waste any by either splashing it on others; or using too much of it in an attempt to rinse ourselves of the past. But either way, that bucket of water is ours alone to carry.

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