The Removers by Andrew Meredith (3 out of 5)
I cannot center the above image. I have spent 25 fruitless minutes doing that, so those few who read my blog, I apologize for the image not being centered. It’s quite a cover, makes quite the statement, don’t you agree? It’s a memoir right up my alley. I just didn’t end up loving it as much as I had hoped to, which is unfortunate.
Andrew Meredith grows up in a relatively happy family, until one summer day in 1990. Andrew’s father, a professor at La Salle University, is fired after allegations of sexual misconduct against female students. He watches his mother withdraw from his father, and the marriage- and the happy medium that the family had before this occurrence- go into free fall. The family feels the effects of this, and Andrew’s years turn into something out of a nightmare. He starts failing school, drinking beer and listening to Pavement over and over with his friend Gazz, and aiming about listlessly while wondering quietly how his idyllic childhood home just turned into an empty shell so quickly.
Nothing doing for him because he just doesn’t feel like caring anymore, Andrew moves back after dropping out of school and takes a job with his dad as a “remover”. For those unfamiliar, these are the unsung heroes who remove the bodies of those who die at home. Andrew’s discussing of the process, the wording he uses, and the seesawing professionalism and dark humor immediately capture the reader. I enjoyed reading about the misadventures and the depth of something I had always wondered about. I enjoyed the fact that Andrew figured out a lot about human scruples and bonded with his father, whom he had not forgiven for the transgression that splintered the family, in the process of doing this very unusual side job.
It is hard for me to pinpoint why I had the taste of dissension in my mouth when I finished it. It went by very fast. It’s a quickly moving story of a young man who has issues with his family and his own adolescent stirrings of curiosity and rebelliousness. Andrew’s a quiet rebel, though, so there’s only the occasional drinking that topple him into uncertainty. His family may or may never recover from his father’s dismissal, but you know by the end of the book that Andrew is going to be alright. That’s a nice switch up from my usual book of late, but again, there were several things that bothered me.
There is a lot of talk about the relationship between Andrew and his father. I went into the book thinking it was going to be a treatise on human nature, the strengths and weaknesses not only of the human spirit but also the human heart, and it is. There’s an entire middle eight of the book where Andrew talks about the girls he sees, his growing fascination with women and the sins of the flesh he would like to commit, and then tying it in with his father’s situation. For some reason, that bothers me. It quite obviously had a lot to do with how Andrew views the opposite sex and his own thoughts on relationships, but for some reason, it felt out of context. Again, it may be me. Another thing that I have to say made me crazy is that it felt like there was a lot more of Andrew’s tale to tell, but he cuts it short after some 250 odd pages. It is a very small memoir. I feel like he could have gone into more detail about what’s going on with him now, but then again, that may his next book. Who knows? I love a book I can really tuck into, and this felt like an appetizer with no entree and dessert in sight.
Having said that, I did enjoy Andrew’s memoir very much. I learned a lot about the human body and how doing a job like that can help you come to terms with things that are askew in your own life, and I appreciate his sharing that story with his readers. I’m sure he’s going to have quite the fan club when this book is released (April? May, 2014? I shamelessly cannot remember). I hope there’s a follow up coming. I would love to know where he takes it from here.