Grave-robbing. What kind of monster would do such a thing? It’s true that Leonardo da Vinci did it, Shakespeare wrote about it, and the resurrection men of nineteenth-century Scotland practically made it an art. But none of this matters to Joey Crouch, a sixteen-year-old straight-A student living in Chicago with his single mom. For the most part, Joey’s life is about playing the trumpet and avoiding the daily humiliations of high school.
Everything changes when Joey’s mother dies in a tragic accident and he is sent to rural Iowa to live with the father he has never known, a strange, solitary man with unimaginable secrets. At first, Joey’s father wants nothing to do with him, but once father and son come to terms with each other, Joey’s life takes a turn both macabre and exhilarating.
I really struggled with how to write this review because, to be honest, I’m still not really sure how I feel about the book.
On one hand, it’s an interesting subject and it’s very well-written. Kraus brings the characters to life and by the end of the book you feel like you know them (whether you want to or not). And despite all of his issues, you can’t help but feel sorry for Joey. Life just really beats him down over and over again.
The book is a bit slow moving at first but once it gets rolling it has a lot of character building and a lot of really tense scenes. It clocks in at almost 450 pages and while at times it does seem a bit overly long, there isn’t a whole lot that could be cut from it either. There aren’t a lot of wasted scenes.
That said, it’s really a gross book. I don’t consider myself easily disturbed and I have a pretty strong stomach, but the really descriptive scenes about grave digging really distressed me more than once. Some parts of the book are truly stomach-turning, so if you are on the sensitive side I don’t think that this is a book for you. I also found it hard to know who to root for here because all of the characters are truly vile, even the ones like Joey who are otherwise likeable. They are committing one of the worst crimes against humanity and they see nothing wrong with it. In fact, they embrace it. I found it a little far-fetched that a teenage kid would want to get into grave robbing – even a teenage kid who was looked at as an outcast, abused by his peers, and distressed over the loss of his mother. So I struggled in that regard as well.
Overall I’d say that it’s a really well written book and certainly unique subject matter, but not all of it worked for me. It’s not a book that I regret reading or was tempted to stop reading, but it didn’t really make a big connection with me either. If you’re looking for something different and you don’t mind gross, give this one a try.