By Scot Gardner
“I could finally see the line drawn in my head. The animal side of death–the gore and the smell and the decay–could make me feel sick but not really keep me from doing what was required. The parts of my new job that filled me with abject and irrational fear, that twisted me into all kinds of knots, were the raw emotions of those left alive. It was the living who were the great unknown.”
Aaron Rowe doesn’t fear death or the dead. Yet although he feels he has found a place he might finally be able to fit into, his new job at the JKB Funeral home stirs up frightening memories and emotions that he doesn’t understand and isn’t able to handle on his own. It may be just bad dreams, but the side effects–uncontrollable sleepwalking, panic attacks–are real and dangerous, and if Aaron can’t find a way to reach past his fear to ask for help, he might lose himself forever.
Why I picked it up: The striking cover art caught my attention, and after the first couple of pages, Aaron’s unique, dryly humorous and phlegmatic voice had me completely hooked.
Why I finished it: I wanted to know more about how and why Aaron, obviously a thoughtful, kind, and sensitive person, became so isolated and withdrawn from human warmth and contact. Gardner keeps the reader in suspense about Aaron’s past right up to the last few pages, making it difficult to put the book down.
I’d give it:
Five stars. Aaron is a very likable character with very realistic problems. The nature of his work as a funeral director’s assistant means that he comes into close contact with death, and the author doesn’t hesitate to describe the gory, gross details in full color.
But despite the squick factor and the dark, gritty reality of Aaron’s life, the book’s overall feeling is one of poignant hope and faith in the ability of people to move on and continue to live and grow in the face of tragedy and loss. Aaron embraces death wholeheartedly, not ghoulishly or out of some prurient interest, but as a natural part of life. And by embracing death, he is able to recognize it for what it truly is: something unavoidable and sad, but ultimately not worthy of the fear and loathing most people feel when confronted with it.
Reviewed by: Francesca (Davis Library)