Author: Daniel Kraus
Narrated by: Kirby Heyborne
Publisher: Listening Library
Publication Date: March 27, 2012
Listening copy via Sync
I know it's past Halloween, but seriously, Rotters by Daniel Kraus is pretty much the perfect Halloween read (or in this case, listen).
Joey Crouch lives in Chicago with his mom. He's somewhere on the autistic spectrum, he's probably a little too dependent on his mom, and they live a somewhat isolated life. But he's got one good friend and he's got his trumpet and life is fairly normal for Joey.
Then his mom dies.
Joey is shipped off to a small town in Iowa to live with his dad, a man he's never met or given much thought to. Ken Harnett is known to the locals as "The Garbageman" and the squalid living conditions Joey now calls home seems to validate that name.
Except what his dad really does is so much worse than anything Joey could ever imagine. Harnett is a Digger, a graverobber, part of a secret brotherhood of Diggers, a world that Joey finds himself joining. Because in this world, he isn't bullied by the local jocks or sadistic teachers. In this world, there's beauty in the macabre. In this world, he is the heir apparent.
Kirby Heyborne does a sublime job narrating the stomach-churning passages, not just of the decomposing bodies, but of the many humiliations that Joey's bullies inflict upon him.
Joey's narration, given his autism, is often flat, and it was a bit off-putting at first. But then I understood more about Joey and I was okay with it. Harnett's gravelly narration sounds a lot like Batman, but I got used to that, too.
Other characters, especially the variety of Diggers, are distinctive and colorful.
Joey's story is a deeply twisted coming-of-age and not for everyone. But for those looking for a good shudder, I highly recommend it.
Rotters by Daniel Kraus Book Trailer: