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The Removersby Andrew Meredith
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"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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