The Pallbearers Club – Paul Tremblay

I’ve loved the Paul Tremblay books I’ve previously read and the blurb for this one had me intrigued, so it’s safe to say this was a highly anticipated read for me. It’s clear from the reviews I’ve read prior to its publication that this is going to be a divisive read and I’m sad to say that on this occasion I’m not on the side of the divide that I was hoping I would be. 

Art Barbara (not his real name) and Mercy Brown (this may or may not be her real name but it’s up to you to decide) meet at a funeral. Art, who needed an extracurricular activity for his college applications, created the Pallbearers Club. Mercy, a stranger of indeterminate age, joins and the two become friends people who spend time with one another … I don’t know how to describe their relationship. 

It’s all kind of odd. Art thinks Mercy is a vampire and proceeds to write a memoir where he attributes various occurrences in his life to said vampirism. Mercy reads the manuscript of Art’s memoir, calls it fiction and then annotates it. 

Art uses foreshadowing like it’s going out of fashion, makes nouns into verbs (I’m good with that) and writes sentences that last an entire paragraph. 

A chapter in which, frankly, I don’t know the best way to somewhat briefly yet dramatically convey and/or describe the passing of twenty years, of the invisible years, and after considerable consideration I land upon using deftly placed flashbacks (to be presented as unrealistic interview dialogue) despite knowing said flashbacks are frowned upon (with, admittedly, good reason most of the time) by the academia writing syndicate as well as by those who can afford to pay for the privilege of being taught prescriptive writing advice, but fuck it, a memoir Novel! is all flashback anyway, so we’ll all just have to deal, and there’s a messed-up and scary piece of furniture that should’ve been a clue. 

I’d encourage you to read some 5 star reviews because there are readers who loved this book as much as I wish I did. Even though this one didn’t work for me, I’m keen to read the rest of this author’s books. 

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Titan Books for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

1988, and puberty has hit Art Barbara hard – he’s a painfully socially awkward teenager, underweight, acne-ridden, and bent crooked by scoliosis. Worse, he has no extra credits to get him into college. So Art starts the Pallbearers’ Club, dedicated to mourning the homeless and lonely – the people with no one else to bury them. It might be a small club, unpopular and morbid, but it introduces Art to Mercy Brown, who is into bands, local history, folklore and digging up the dead.

Decades later, Art is writing his memoir to try and make sense of it all, because nothing about Mercy is simple. It’s all a matter of trust, right? Their friendship twists and coils around the pair of them, captured in Polaroid snapshots and sweaty gigs and the freaky, inexplicable flashes of nightmare that lurk in a folded jacket at night.

Because Art is writing his memoir to make sense of it all, but Mercy is reading it too. Mercy thinks Art’s novel – because this isn’t a memoir – needs some work, and she’s more than happy to set the record straight. What if Art didn’t get everything right? Come on, Art, you can’t tell just one side of the story… 

Seamlessly blurring the lines between fiction and memory, the supernatural and the mundane, The Pallbearers Club is an immersive, suspenseful portrait of an unforgettable and unsettling friendship.

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