Home Books Book Review: The Pallbearers’ Club by Paul Tremblay

Book Review: The Pallbearers’ Club by Paul Tremblay

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I received a review from the publisher. This does not affect the content of my review and all opinions are my own.

Cover bearers club by Paul Trumble

Mogsy Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

genre: horror

series: Alone

Publisher: HarperAudio (July 5, 2022)

Length: 10 hours 46 minutes

Information about the author: Website | Twitter

Narrators: Graham Halstead, Xe Sands, Elizabeth Wiley

Oh, how to describe Cover bearers club? It’s definitely not your average romance, and I recommend it? Everyone should be aware of its unique and rather idiosyncratic narrative format before reading it. The printed version presents the text as a typed manuscript of a memoir written by the “author” Art Barbar (a pseudonym, we’re told), with annotations in the margins written by his “beta reader,” a woman he identifies simply as Mercy.

Depending on what kind of reader you are, you may find this idiosyncrasy extremely weird or downright annoying and distracting (which, judging by the reviews, seems to be a common complaint), but I don’t know. I was lucky enough to receive the audiobook edition for review, which actually worked really well thanks to having two different narrators playing different roles. Graham Halstead read the main text of the story as Art, while Xie Sands took on the role of Mercy, jumping in whenever she had comments to make. The audio format made the interactions between the two characters very realistic and natural, so I didn’t experience the start-stop effect of having to constantly switch between text and notes like in a printed book, because all the hard work was done for me.

How for what Cover bearers club about, well, it’s also pretty complicated. Because this novel is written as his memoir, Art begins his story in the late 1980s, when he was a seventeen-year-old outcast in high school who had terrible scoliosis, loved listening to hair metal bands, and was in desperate need of extra work for his resume, so he could go to the college of his choice and as far away from his miserable little hometown as possible. He decides that the best way to do this is to start his own club and begins to recruit other volunteers to serve with him as pallbearers at a local funeral home for people who have died without family or friends.

Needless to say, he did not take off. But thanks to the cover bearers club, our hero managed to make one new friend. Mercy was everything Art was not – quirky, confident and cool. As a community college student, she learned about the club through one of its flyers and seemed to love everything about the idea. It also gave her the opportunity to photograph the corpses, which she did with her trusty Polaroid camera, which never seemed to leave her hands. Mercy admired many strange things – sometimes disturbing, it’s scary things, but Art is content not to ask too many questions, not wanting to do anything that might alienate his new friend. As their strange relationship continues into Art’s adulthood, he begins to wonder if Mercy might be more than she imagined. While writing this memoir, he tries to make sense of all the unexplainable things he saw and the strange interactions they had.

Every time I say I’m done with Paul Tremblay, he comes out with another book that sounds so good and simple that I’m tempted to pick it up, but then I read it and it’s really amazing or super, and I I think I’m back where I started.

However, his books are not bad. It’s simple A head full of ghosts was the first book I ever read, and frankly, nothing he’s written since has come close to being as amazing or scary to me. It’s most frustrating, and I fear that the vicious cycle described above will repeat itself forever as I doggedly continue to read it in the hope that I’ll experience the same magic again, which admittedly seems less and less likely with each new novel.

So, I’m kind of like that Cover bearers club. The book starts off really well, with a fantastic relationship between the two main characters that you just want to get to know better. However, things change when Tremblay tries too hard to be meta and smart and only succeeds in making the story more confusing and pretentious. By the halfway mark I wasn’t really enjoying myself and was just doing my best to finish the book.

I was also impressed with the ending and the novel as a whole. The publisher’s description didn’t sell the book very well, as the tone of the story was more literary experimental fiction than horror, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I was expecting something different, and was in the mood for something different, thus explaining my lukewarm review. It’s hard to say if I’ll continue to read the author after this, going back to that old cycle, but I guess it’ll just depend on what his next book is about (as always).

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