The Pallbearers Club by Paul Tremblay

The Pallbearers Club by Paul Tremblay

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Other Possible Prompts: 5. Chapters have titles, 8. Involving the art world, 11. A book with less than 2022 Goodreads ratings, 13. Includes a club, 15. A five syllable title, 23. An author with an X, Y, or Z in their name, 36. Recommended by a favorite author, 40. A book with photographs inside, 46. A job title in the title, 52. Published in 2022

My streak of meh books continues. I really think this is the improvement to Paul Tremblay’s work that I was looking for, but I still had to drag myself to the finish line on this one.

Art Barbara is not his real name, but this is his memoir. Beginning in the late 80s, after being told he needs more clubs and extracurriculars to get into college, Art starts The Pallbearers Club: a group that attends the funerals of the homeless, or older people with no one left. There, he meets Mercy, a girl of undistinguishable age, with a camera and a fascination for Art and his club.

Over the next twenty years, Mercy floats in and out of his life, but Art’s life revolves and progresses around the time he spent with Mercy. She left a permanent – and possibly harmful, supernatural – mark on his life that is nearly inescapable.

I don’t really know how to describe this book and I don’t think Tremblay did either. It’s a very, very weird book, but I think it’s kind of a good weird. It very much reminded me of Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick – my go-to recommendation for something oddly heavy. It feels like digesting a lot, which is why it took me longer than expected to finish these less than 300 pages.

The writing here is EXACTLY what I knew Tremblay was capable of when I read, and did not love, Survivor Song. It wasn’t his story, not in the sense that it wasn’t original but in that it was not his scene, not the setting for his storytelling skills. The Pallbearers Club is his story. This blend of 80s cult classic with 90s hopelessness and confusion is a perfect blend for his style and wordplay. This part of the book, at least, was top notch, and solely convinced me I would read another of his books if it sounded like the right one.

I think the characters and the story were also very distinct and interesting, and I liked all of it. They were extremely well-rounded; the relationships and exploration of them through dialogue and moments spent together were exactly what they should’ve been to relay their toxic friendship and increasing madness. It was an intriguing concept, but something about it feels like it could’ve been done better: I liked this book, but I couldn’t wait to be done with it, if that makes sense. It was dense in all the wrong ways. It felt clunky, yet the prose was so perfect. It’s hard to explain, but something about this was disjointed in a way that affected my enjoyment, but not so much my absorption of the point and the book itself.

I would still recommend this one. This is Tremblay in his element, I’m sure of it. There was a lot of good here to go along with the bad.

Have a great weekend!

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