Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Grievers

By Marc Schuster
The Permanent Press, 176 pgs
Submitted by The Permanent Press
Rating: 3.5

The Grievers by Marc Schuster is a short novel about how a group of friends responds to the suicide of one of their own. And it's much funnier than it sounds. Our protagonist is Charley Schwartz, one of a group of men who attended the same exclusive private high school in Philadelphia. They are a diverse lot. Charley has a master's in English but currently impersonates a dollar sign on a sidewalk fronting a bank. Neil is a lawyer and Charley's best friend and surrogate parental figure. Greg lives with his mother, trolls for women online and is insane. Dwayne is a cop. Sean is a social worker who sells Volkswagens on weekends. Anthony is a producer and director of improbable musicals (Hogan's Heroes.) Billy Chin was a pharmacist and then he jumped off a bridge.

The group gets together and decides to make a donation to their old school's scholarship fund in Billy's name. This is a fantastic idea, yes? Then the marketing department at the school hijacks the idea and turns Billy's death into an excuse to put together a Billy Chin Festival, masquerading as a memorial service.

The Grievers follows Charley as he attempts to come to terms with Billy's suicide and the spectacle of fundraising it has inspired, as well as the questions it poses for Charley's future. He knows it's past time to grow up, to drop the cynical facade, square his shoulders, and take the risks necessary to build a satisfying adult life. This is my favorite line: "Because living and dying walk hand in hand, and the alternative to both is neither - cold as a stone, unchanging and lifeless."

Is it too late for redemption?

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