Like the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral, Marc Schuster’s The Grievers blends the post-juvenile humor of adults refusing to grow up with aching pathos and biting touches of genius. By the final memorial service for Billy Chin, the reader knows everything is bound to go wrong, and that somehow it will all turn out right. We’re reading. We trust the writer and driver of this tale. And dysfunctional Charley’s finally taking the wheel.
A satisfying story on many different levels, The Grievers starts with a phone call from Billy’s mother, telling Charley his old school friend has killed himself. Meanwhile Charley is killing his hopes and his marriage with neglect. And “working at a bank” means dressing in a shiny foam dollar sign to wave at drivers from the grass.
If you think this sounds depressing, you just have to wait for Charley to lose his footing when the sprinklers come on. Or listen to his friend quote Marx brothers movies. Or ride along on a failed intervention when another friend falls off the rails. Comedy travels hand in hand with tragedy in this novel, neither any further away than the next page, but both singing in tune.
In soaps the dead can rise again, saved by mistaken identity. In real life, true identity might be revealed in the mourning process. Billy’s death just might help Charley finally recognize himself. And the Henry Avenue Bridge in Philadelphia might reveal a different view when Charley learns to follow the road.
Disclosure: I received a free bound galley of this novel from the Permanent Press in exchange for my honest review.
Title: The Grievers
Author: Marc Schuster
Publisher: The Permanent Press
Publication date: May 2012