Title/Author: Rotters by Daniel Krause
Narrated by: Kirby Heyborne.
Genre: Dark Fiction.
Publisher: Listening Library.
Favorite character: Joey and Baby.
All in all: Dark and twisted. Engrossing.
Synopsis: 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.
Daniel Kraus's masterful plotting and unforgettable characters make Rotters a moving, terrifying, and unconventional epic about fathers and sons, complex family ties, taboos, and the ever-present specter of mortality. ~Goodreads.com.
My Thoughts: I had thought a book about a son who goes into the family business of grave robbing was going to have a dark sense of humor. I mean, how else can you cover this kind of subject? My first thought about the narration was "Why so serious? Shouldn't this be tongue in cheek?" Well, I soon discovered that it was meant to be taken as it is presented -- dead serious.
At first, I wasn't loving Rotters. It is dismal and I felt like I was sinking into Joey's depression and dismay along with him. He couldn't seem to get a break and I couldn't sympathize with him. But then I realized that I needed to find out what happens to him. I needed to find out how he handles his new situation, his father's secret calling, the one that soon becomes his own. With his mother gone, his bully target status at school I needed to know how he survives. He not only survives but he grows. Maybe it's not a direction that anyone would want their child to go in, but he becomes self reliant and strong. With each day that his father tests him, to each day that his classmates test him to each "job" that challenges him. He realizes a kind of twisted potential. The darkness that he comes to embrace and the secrets that he holds make him stronger.
I never connected with Joey's father, Ken Harnett, or with what he does, but the details and the research that have gone into this are apparent. The images are stark, yet Harnett treats his calling with reverance and teaches his son the same respect.
The narration is amazing. One of the best interpretations and performances I've heard. To be honest, I don't know if I would have been so engrossed in this book without Heyborne reading it. His dramatic and subtle nuances are perfection. All the voices are different and strong. From Ken Harnett, who sounds like a tired Clint Eastwood, to Baby, whose southern charm oozes snakelike and insidious.
The plot is unique and the events that occur circle around. There are surprises and culminations and events I did not see coming. Good ones, bad ones, ones that had me literally covering my mouth in shock. I learned things that I really would have been okay not knowing. Like a Rat King. I would have been okay going through the rest of my life not knowing what that is.
Rotters is not really for the faint of heart and although I found it a bit slow at times, especially in the beginning, I found a story that although is painful and extreme, is also complex, absorbing and powerful.