Book Review: The Grievers, by Marc Schuster

The GrieversThe Grievers, by Marc Schuster
The Permanent Press
2012
176 pages

The Grievers may possibly be one of the best books you’ve never heard of.

This is the somewhat unusual case where I’ve heard of the author before the book. You see, Marc’s a Philly guy and although our paths haven’t (to my knowledge) crossed, I’m thinking I had to have read something of his at one point.

He’s just too good.

The Grievers came to my attention in late 2011, when my friend – and fellow Philadelphia author – Beth Kephart shared some reflections about it on her blog.  I immediately added it to my Goodreads TBR list. There it sat until several months ago, when I spotted The Grievers on the shelf at the library.

(This is the irony that’s become my life nowadays: I need to move across the damn state to discover an author from my hometown. Somehow, I think that the main character Charley Schwartz would appreciate – and relate – to that.)

“Elvis Costello was singing on the radio. Neil cranked the volume and lowered his windows. As the world flew by at sixty miles per hour, we became children again – or pretended to, at any rate – belting out song lyrics with the wind whipping all around us. It wasn’t freedom, exactly, but a small part of me wondered what would happen if Neil laid a heavy foot on the gas and kept going – past the Academy, through the city, over the Delaware, and straight out to the Jersey shore. Could we have a do-over, I wondered? Could we win back the infinite possibility of childhood?” (pg. 62-63)

When prep school friends Charley and Neil learn of the death of Billy Chin, a fellow classmate, they agree to help the school with the memorial service … which turns into something else entirely. (Those of us who work or have worked in the development profession will especially enjoy this part of the book, as there may be more than a few incidents that sound all too familiar.)  It also turns into something of a midlife crisis of sorts for Charley. (Or, as the book description puts it, “The Grievers is a darkly comic coming of age novel for a generation that’s still struggling to come of age.”)

The Philadelphia setting is absolutely dead-on; Mr. Schuster nails every detail of the geography. Although several of the locations are fictionalized, it was pure fun guessing what Mr. Schuster may have been referring to with certain aspects of his story.

I’m oversimplifying, it seems, but Mr. Schuster absolutely does an excellent job with this novel. Discover why – and how – for yourself.