Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Gardner, Scot. The Dead I Know.

Gardner, Scot.  The Dead I Know.    Houghton Mifflin  2015 201p $17.99  ISBN 978-0-544-23274-7  hs  Realistic fiction  VG-BN

Aaron’s home life is so out-of-control that his apprenticeship at a local funeral parlor makes the day-to-day activities of the funeral parlor resemble normalcy to him.  Much of Aaron’s life is upside down.  Aaron, a loner by choice, and his new mentor John, the funeral director, achieve a father-son relationship.  At home, Aaron is the caretaker for Mam, an increasingly unstable woman who suffers from dementia and mental illness.  Their flimsy trailer is located in a seedy part of town, and the ruffians who live nearby torment Mam and Aaron.  Aaron has vivid nightmares that seem more like memories, and he sleepwalks.  He worries that he may be caught in the same chaotic downward spiral that grips Mam.  The Barton family becomes his lifeline to reality and a safe haven as Aaron attempts to cope with situations that adults would find daunting.  

its grim themes (death, mental illness, coping, bullying, family problems), The Dead I Know ends on a hopeful note.  Gardner’s spare prose is straightforward and compelling.  The characters in this darkly humorous novel are believable and authentic.  The plot may be a bit too convoluted for some readers’ tastes, but the emotional impact will linger with the reader.

Summary: Aaron’s out-of-control home life makes apprenticeship at a funeral home seem normal.        

Mental illness-Fiction, Families-Fiction              --Hilary Welliver

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