Thursday, June 23, 2011

Reading Rotters in the Daylight

Sunrise was at 5:12, Sunset was at 9:11, -18 seconds daylight. It doesn't sound like a lot, does it? but it does mean we're already heading into fall and we haven't even had two days in a row of sun and heat yet.

I called in sick on Thursday with a horribly sore throat. I hate calling in sick, but when my throat gets like this I ALWAYS lose my voice and then I get a nasty cough which then keeps my throat even more sore. I took a benadryl to try and dry everything out and slept until almost noon. Then I read.

I had to keep the window above my head closed so I wouldn't breathe in the cold air but it looked like a pretty nice day, a perfect day to lie in bed and read Rotters, written by Daniel Kraus, in natural daylight.

What an amazing book-A lot of talk about maggots and flies, fetid smells and difficult families but such a good read! It's the story of a boy whose mother dies and he has to go live with a father he never knew who lives in a small town with a small-minded bunch of jocks and bullies. His father is known as the garbage man because he smells so bad and it takes a very long time for our hero and his dad to come to any kind of friendship, much less any kind of family feeling.

Joey finds himself the center of a very special club of men, a group whose ranks formed in the ancient worlds of da Vinci and Shakespeare: grave robbers. His father tries to keep him ignorant of the work he does but when things at school reach boiling points, Joey is inducted into his father's very special life. It turns out that his father is actually the golden boy of grave robbers, the epitome of what one would aspire to as far as this form of work goes. He can read a slide of pebbles, the track of root systems, the way a slip of skin slides off a limb in a coffin and he trains Joey to see the way nature effects the dead and the way humans try to stop the process.

Absolutely fascinating look at the world of embalming and ground scenting at funerals. I loved this society of men who rob graves, their fraternity, their mythology and loneliness, the special words and feelings for their tools. I love the relationships they have with each other, the love and fear they have for their work and that it will soon be a world gone as the men die and no one is further admitted into their ranks.

We are starting a list at work of really great books for young men and this one is pretty darned close to the top of it. Although a number of women "of a certain age" have loved Rotters, it's a book that we think is especially good for those boys heading into manhood, ages 15 and older, a coming of age story as Joey wends his way through high school, family and friendship.

It would be a really good book for all those adults who may be not particularly squeamish who are just looking for a good book to read, an interesting story with fascinating characters, a story with love, lust, jealousy, rat kings, loyalty and interesting facts about death and the funeral business. Ages 14 and up. (Delacorte. $16.99. Available now.)

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