Here is the problem with reading a book on my kindle. When I have a nice, old-fashioned book, I can put it on my shelf and think about it for a while before I read it. I can rearrange my to-read pile, and glance at a blurb or two without actually diving in, and I don’t feel like I’m cheating on the book I am reading at the time. By the time I pick the book up to read it, I am comfortably familiar with it. While I am reading, I can tuck in my place with the dust jacket, and see a short bio and photo of the author. Sometimes I do this more often — when I read The Glass Castle, I must have flipped to Jeannette Walls’ photo a hundred times, because I almost couldn’t believe she lived to tell the story.
On my kindle, if I get an author photo at all, it’s at the end, and sometimes my kindle gets confused if I go there first to check it out, so when I try to go back where I left off it offers to “sync to the latest page” and takes me right back to the end, again. For the most part, the actual “books” on my kindle are just two line listings on my home page. All this is really to say that by the time I picked up this book, (which has such a cool, morbid cover I kind of want to buy it just to have on my shelf), I had forgotten it was a memoir and not a novel. Phew, that was long-winded, sorry. But still something to think about, Amazon.
So. Andrew Meredith has recovered from an incredibly strange but sometimes wonderful (but ok, mostly strange) childhood. In the beginning, the unusual trauma he has been through was shocking to me, despite the fact that the story did not involve any kind of physical abuse or violence that would be appropriate for what I was feeling.
In the broadest sense, his story reminded me of a friend, many years ago, who went through a long, drawn-out divorce. The couple stayed together, fiercely unhappy; convinced this was good for their children. The effects of ten years of unhappiness and silence are still playing out in all their lives these many years later. In the same way, I think that Meredith has many more demons he needs to work through, but he has come through the ordeal almost psychically unscathed. Or at least it appeared that way to me. He admits that much of his perspective was gained in the way we all gain perspective, in hindsight.
The Seventies and Eighties in suburban Philadelphia are brought to life in the carefully crafted details here. Meredith sets the scene with skill, and all of the cultural references put the story firmly in that particular time and place. (Except for the group Pavement – I’m sorry, I never heard of them. But maybe this book will spark a reunion.)
Andrew Meredith has taken a long and difficult road to becoming an author. He followed a path that not many of us would choose, working jobs that would easily qualify for the Dirty Jobs show. But working these gruesome jobs has taught him acceptance, compassion and understanding — and working with the dead has literally brought him back to life. We are the beneficiaries of his eloquently documented rebirth.