Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Following the sudden death of his mother, Sixteen-year-old Joey Crouch moves from Chicago to Iowa to live with his father, a man he's never met. In Chicago he had a best friend, musical ambitions, and straight As. In Iowa, Joey lives in a filthy, stinky, decrepit house with a man who barely speaks to him, sleeps on the floor it the kitchen, and is bullied by teachers and students at school. When he discovers his father makes his living by robbing graves, it seems like things couldn't possibly get worse. Oh, but they can.
I am still not sure how I feel about this book. I went into it knowing very little about the story, but I think I was expecting supernatural horror. There is horror in this book, all right, but it's the horror of how cruel people can be to each other, which I personally find a lot harder to take than zombies and such - and while there are extremely graphic descriptions of moldering corpses and the contents of unearthed graves, those were less disturbing than the abuse Joey undergoes throughout the novel.
I found that I was ambivalent about Joey as the main character, whose excessive passivity in certain situations made me want to shake him, and then when he finally decided to take action, his actions made no real sense to me. I never fully understood his motivations for many of the things he did. It is clear that he is a super smart kid, and there were simple ways he could have extricated himself from the situation, but he never made that attempt. Still, the story was compelling enough for me to stay with it all the way through. I found the ending less than satisfying, and wonder if perhaps there is a sequel in the works, but even if there is, I think I would take a pass. The book is unrelentingly dark and left me with a sense of hopelessness that I'd prefer to avoid if I can.
Rotters by Daniel Kraus (Listening Library, 2011)