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The Removers

by

The Removers Cover

ISBN13: 9781476761213
ISBN10: 1476761213
All Product Details

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

A dark, poignant, and emotionally brave coming-of-age memoir: the story of a young man who, by handling the dead, makes peace with the living.

For almost twenty years I mistook my father’s downfall as my own. But it wasn’t. It was not my sister’s either, nor my mother’s.

A literature professor at La Salle University, Andrew Meredith’s father was fired after unspecified allegations of sexual misconduct. It’s a transgression Andrew cannot forgive, for it brought about long-lasting familial despair. In the wake of the scandal, Andrew’s parents limp along, trapped in an unhappy marriage. Meanwhile, Andrew treads water, stuck in a kind of suspended adolescence—falling in and out of school, moving blindly from one half-hearted relationship to the next, slowly killing the nights drinking beer and listening to music with his childhood friends.

Broke, Andrew moves back home to his childhood neighborhood in Northeast Philadelphia and takes a job alongside his father as a “remover,” the name for those unseen, unsung workers who take away the bodies of those who die at home. He describes, as only a professional can do, the intimate, horrific, poignant, and occasionally morbidly comedic aspects of handling the dead. Just how do you carry a 500-pound corpse down winding stairs? What actually happens to pacemakers, tooth fillings, surgical screws, artificial hips, and anything else that the deceased has within his or her body? Andrew begins to see his father not through the lens of a wronged and resentful child, but as a sympathetic, imperfect man who loves his family despite his flaws. Eventually the chip on his shoulder starts to lose its weight.

Poetic without being florid, and with the literary ability to transform the naturally grotesque into the exquisite, The Removers is a searing story of a young man who finds in death a redemptive path toward the forgiveness of the living, including himself.

Review:

"In this potent memoir, Meredith begins a career as a handler of the dead following a scandal that shatters his family when his is only 14. His father, a professor of literature, is accused of sexual harassment and fired. Meredith's devastated mother withdraws, and Meredith and his sister are left floundering through the remainder of their youth. Flunking out of college, Meredith first works with his father removing the bodies of the deceased from their homes. He then gets a job at Brotherly Love Cremation, and describes the grim details of his work. During this period of his life, Meredith is numb, likening himself to a possum: 'The possum is a coward. He avoids conflict by disengaging, by hiding behind his open eyes. He cleans up the dead. He eats carrion so we don't have to smell it, see it, catch its disease.' Careening through women and drink, Meredith describes without emotion the girls he uses and dumps, the demise of his Philadelphia neighborhood, and the violent deaths of several guys he knew from high school. The 'festival of death' at work every day stirs no feelings in him about life. Change doesn't seem to be within his power, and he fears he might become his father. Realizing that 'picking one thing to be' might be his salvation, he writes in the final pages that he can see his work as a service to others, a mercy, although this bright wrap-up seems a bit too neatly contrived given what comes before. (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Andrew Meredith has been awarded fellowships from Yaddo and from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. He received an MFA in Fiction from UNC-Greensboro. The Removers is his first book.

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

Ryan DeJonghe, July 9, 2014 (view all comments by Ryan DeJonghe)
Come on, I wanted more dead bodies! Yes, I know I’m a sicko, but the description made THE REMOVERS sound fifty percent love-you-dad and fifty percent eww-that’s-gross. What I got was about ninety percent hug-fest and ten percent blood-bombs.


The writing is good. For instance, visualize as you read this, “At the rec center baseball diamond across the street, screams of “Go!” follow an aluminum plink. At the corner, tulips in yellow, red, violet, planted to partition the sidewalk from a tiny row house lawn, salute a crew-cut man in a tank top, gold crucifix swinging as he soapy-sponges his four-wheeled stereo.” Beautiful painting of Americana, right? Just imagine how these words wrap around decayed dead bodies. Yeah, my thoughts exactly. I wanted more.


About dead bodies, this book is not for the squeamish. You’ll read as the author describes a three-week-old body that “feels like squeezing a Ziploc bag filled with tomato sauce.” Or, of the crematorium, “the smell of burning meat, or worse, boiling rivulets of body fat leaking out the front door of the machine, dripping down into the processing pan and onto the floor, leaving a grotesque cleanup task and an aromatic cocktail of chalk dust, basement mold, and the burnt black drippings in a roast pan.” Yummy. There’s maybe ten such descriptions in the whole book. That’s it.


A majority of the book is kumbaya with the friends, family, and neighbors. That’s okay, I like that kind of stuff (even though I wanted a higher percentage of bodies). As you can see, the author is quite talented with words, but what drove me batty was his method of mashing topics together. One paragraph he’d be describing hoeing through body parts in the burner, the very next paragraph he’d continue a story about his father touching young college girls. Two totally different stories at once; tt was a blunt kick to the flow.

There were a few quotes I liked that blended both blood and hugs together, such as, “What does it mean to reduce a woman to five pounds of powdered bone in one three-hundred-thousandth of the time she lived?” Profound.



Overall, this was a well-written memoir with decent insight into the industry. The daddy stuff was nice, but a bit too long-winded for me. You’ll find enough bloody fascination buried within if you are willing to dig through the vast amount of touchy feely.


Four stars because it was well written and interesting and at least lived up to some of its gross potential. Yes, there is a 500-pound woman and burning baby involved. Be forewarned.


Thanks to Scribner for providing an electronic review copy of this for me.
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Peggy Arthurs, July 3, 2014 (view all comments by Peggy Arthurs)
This was a good book. I just about read it right through in one sitting. The story skipped back and forth a little to when he was young and before the firing and after the firing, but it didn't distract. I had a hard time putting the book down to go to bed. I was compelled to finish and see how things turned out for Andrew and his family.

Pretty graphic descriptions of dead bodies, especially the one that had lain for a week before anyone checked on him, and what happens to a body during cremation. But it was really interesting learning about this aspect of what happens when someone dies.

I'm glad Andrew invited us on his journey through a fractured family. How he finally came to be comfortable with himself, to see he had value and something to contribute to life. We all have traumas and drama in our families. But what he learned and shared with you and I is that the important thing is our response to them. Worth a look! I recommend it.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9781476761213
Author:
Meredith, Andrew
Publisher:
Scribner Book Company
Subject:
Biography - General
Edition Description:
Hardback
Publication Date:
20140731
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Language:
English
Pages:
192
Dimensions:
228.6 x 152.4 mm

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Biography » General
Biography » Literary
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History and Social Science » Sociology » General

The Removers New Hardcover
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Product details 192 pages Scribner Book Company - English 9781476761213 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "In this potent memoir, Meredith begins a career as a handler of the dead following a scandal that shatters his family when his is only 14. His father, a professor of literature, is accused of sexual harassment and fired. Meredith's devastated mother withdraws, and Meredith and his sister are left floundering through the remainder of their youth. Flunking out of college, Meredith first works with his father removing the bodies of the deceased from their homes. He then gets a job at Brotherly Love Cremation, and describes the grim details of his work. During this period of his life, Meredith is numb, likening himself to a possum: 'The possum is a coward. He avoids conflict by disengaging, by hiding behind his open eyes. He cleans up the dead. He eats carrion so we don't have to smell it, see it, catch its disease.' Careening through women and drink, Meredith describes without emotion the girls he uses and dumps, the demise of his Philadelphia neighborhood, and the violent deaths of several guys he knew from high school. The 'festival of death' at work every day stirs no feelings in him about life. Change doesn't seem to be within his power, and he fears he might become his father. Realizing that 'picking one thing to be' might be his salvation, he writes in the final pages that he can see his work as a service to others, a mercy, although this bright wrap-up seems a bit too neatly contrived given what comes before. (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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