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)
"Mr. Meredith knows how to make sentences and how to put them in service of paragraphs that broaden the emotional register of his narrative. The reader is edged, inevitably, up and back between the good laugh and good cry by his artful prose.... debut more worthy than most."
"This book is
good. It’s also gruesome, wryly humorous, beautiful and horrible, all at the same time.... So wrapped up was I in this book at that point that I realized I’d been holding my breath. That’s a sure sign of a good read and a good reason to look for this memoir. For anyone who relishes a shadowy coming-of-age story, “The Removers” is one you won’t be able to remove from your hands."
"Flawless... With its lyrical language and strong sense of place
The Removers is rollicking fun, even when what it's describing is ghastly - and with its East Coast-gothic backdrop, it practically begs to be translated into a film."
The Philadelphia Inquirer
A conventional coming-of-age memoir within a morbidly unconventional context.Amid the usual accounts of indie-rock obsession and adolescent sexual frustration, this memoir has more than its share of mysteries to resolve.The first is what exactly Meredith’s father did to lose his college teaching job—something involving sexual improprieties with at least one female student (but not more directly addressed until the memoir’s end and never totally clarified). The second is how the author, once a promising student and athlete, has ended up working with his dad part-time removing the bodies of the recently deceased from their homes. “People ask how I got into the funeral business, the underlying implication seeming to be, Why would you possibly choose it?” he writes. “The answer is that I had not yet developed any choosing skills. I was a broke dummy just as startled as anyone else to find myself picking up bodies.” In between descriptions of his work life—how the bodies felt, how bad some of them smelled—Meredith describes how things weren’t much livelier at home, where his mother stayed with his father despite the scandal but refused to talk to him for more than a decade.Ultimately, everyone moved on, mother and father and sister as well as the author, who finally graduated after continually flunking out of college and earned the MFA that led to this debut.There was also a break from the death business, when the author worked in Beverly Hills, which featured memorable (for him) encounters with the likes of Angelina Jolie but where “crushed Sprite cans were touched more lovingly that year than were my genitals.” Meredith eventually came to terms with his father, with himself and with the possibility of making a deeper connection with live bodies than with dead ones.Most of what readers might find new or intriguing concerns the process of corpse removal.
“The Removers is for anyone whose adolescence has taken too long, whose hands need useful work, or who wants to put his family grudges away and get on with the rewards of adult life—such as the wicked laughs and the sweet, tender, singing prose of this wonderful book.”
“You might be forgiven, at first, if you believe that the book in your hands is about creatures from another planet (We are nobodies. We are men made to be forgotten. We are paid to be invisible.). Prepare yourself—as you wander more deeply into this brightly-lit, finely wrought nightmare, the mirrors start appearing. Sex and death might propel the story forward, but by the end Andrew Meredith peals back the night to reveal what we are made of. The removers are not only among us, they are us. A tour-de-force whispered from the shadows.”
The Removers is angry and forgiving, sometimes hideous, tough, emotionally compelling, and important. Andrew Meredith comes of age, struggles, and survives in the disintegrating blue-collar environs of Philadelphia. This book can unlock doors. Get your hands on it right away.”
“Andrew Meredith writes with the eye of a poet and the heart of a man transformed.
The Removers brims with moments of unforgettable beauty and raw honesty.”
“Flawless… With a mordant sense of humor and poet's eye for detail, [Meredith] puts us square in the middle of his story... Rollicking fun.”
"A coming-of-age tale laden with corpses and casual sex, fledging children and family ties, the stoop and strain, the heft and haulage of life's dead weights... Mr. Meredith knows how to make sentences... The reader is edged, inevitably, up and back between the good laugh and good cry by his artful prose....Compelling… It turns out that, by getting the dead where they need to go, the living can get where they need to be.”
Wall Street Journal - Thomas Lynch
"[Father and son] delivering bodies of the recently dead to a mortician... That is the substrate of this memoir, and also its ruling metaphor: the image of the death of the family. Piercingly, it is also the avenue, via skin and smell and mortality, to the book’s ecstatic conclusion."
"Powerful...Meredith writes with plainspoken grace and easy humor... Meredith meditates on failure and family with an honesty so raw it’s almost painful. What makes this memoir ultimately rewarding is its steadfast testimony of Meredith’s progress toward becoming the kind of man he wants to be. "
"A darkly funny memoir about family reckonings."
"Meredith’s memoir of how his life was affected by his father’s transgression is itself poetic, and he tucks his bittersweet childhood memories between tales of removals as carefully as the death certificates he slips between the bodies he picks up and the stretcher-like contraption that transports each body to the waiting vehicle."
"Dark and bleak and funny and utterly Philly... a tour de force"
"Poignant...bittersweet, but also frequently, improbably hilarious...This book will ring true to anyone who ever yearned to grow up, only to find that coming of age is more painful and beautiful than they ever imagined."