Marie’s Reading: “Rotters” by Daniel Kraus

rottersI’ll tell you straight, readers: this book is not for everyone.  But if you’re one of the people it’s for, you will love it.  I don’t think there’s much in-between with a story like this, but others may disagree.

As Rotters opens, Joey’s mother has recently died in a tragic accident.  Alone in the world, he’s sent to live with his father in a remote town in Iowa.  A father that he’s never met, and that his mother never talked about.  Joey arrives at his new home to find that his father has a very bad reputation.  With good reason, as it turns out–Joey’s dad robs graves for a living.

Before I go any further I just need to remind you all that I am the resident  weirdo librarian.  I like to read books that are creepy and twisted and bizarre.

uncle fester

Yeah, I’m Uncle Fester. Without the whole lightbulb thing.

Kraus delivers an engaging, grotesque, heart-wrenching tale in Rotters.  I laughed, I cried, I gagged. Part coming of age, part touching father-son story, part Jacobean revenge fantasy, part love story.  All with the gory twist of robbing dead bodies.

I couldn’t tear myself away from it.  I read it far into the night, which was, as you might guess, a terrible idea.  The novel is graphic, it’s disturbing, it’s intense.  And yet, I wouldn’t quite call this a horror novel.  It does not, in my opinion, meet horror’s primary benchmark.  It’s not about instilling fear.  There isn’t really a monster.  There are just broken people who do terrible things.

And that’s what makes this such a compelling, deliciously twisted book–these are people, as extraordinary and bizarre as their circumstances might be.  Never do you forget that these are human beings with emotions.  Without that grounding and emotional center, there would be no reason to care enough to get through the weirder aspects of the story.   Kraus also did his homework on the biology of decay, burial practices, and the history of grave-robbing.  If that sort of history appeals to you as it appeals to me, you’ll probably enjoy that aspect of the book just as much as the drama and the characters.

Stephen King fans, this one’s for you.  If you made it through Pet Sematary and count it among your favorites, give Rotters a try.  And if the very idea of this book leaves you feeling the need for a pick-me-up rather than a read-alike, but you’re still  interested in the themes of love and death, fire up the DVD player and watch a Tim Burton movie.  A  Corpse Bride and Frankenweenie double feature might make you feel a bit better.

Speaking of movies….I’d love an excuse to share the trailer for one of my favorites.  It’s called Burke & Hare, and it also deals with love, body-snatching, and the ethics of death.  [Warning for language and a couple of crude jokes, in case your grandma or a little kid is looking over your shoulder] Enjoy!

–Marie

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