24 October 2013

A Long Day at the End of the World

A while back, I became a bit disinterested in fiction.  It just seemed to me that real life was far more interesting.  Case in point -- A Long Day at the End of the World.  Brent Hendricks' memoir reads like the most exquisite piece of fiction.  If fact, his story is so downright preposterous that one might think it was fiction.  News reports prove the truth and noting but the truth; what there is of the truth, anyway.

Hendricks tells the story of the Tri-State Crematory.   Back in 2002, hundreds of abandoned and decayed corpses were discovered in a small town in Georgia.  It was the the largest mass desecration of remains in modern American history.  There were 339 bodies resting in various states of disarray around the Tri-State Crematory.  When the investigation concluded only 226 of the bodies were identified.

Brent Marsh had taken over the family business.  He plead guilty and is serving 12 years.  The guilty plea offered no explanation into why Marsh cremated some of the remains and simply dumped others.

One of the bodies dumped was Brent Hendricks' father.  He had been dead for many years when he was sent to the Tri-State Crematory.  Hendricks' mother wanted her husband's body disinterred from his burial plot and cremated.  Her children went along with the plan and five years later, found that the cremains sitting on their mother's mantel were not their father, but bits of cement and animal bone.

Hendricks heads out on the back roads of the deep South to find out exactly what happened to his father.  Most reviewers call this book "Southern Gothic" but in the South were refer to it as Tuesday.  Truth is, indeed, stranger than fiction.   A Long Day at the End of the World is a lamentation of the bond between parents and children, a mystery with no end, a exploration of death, and a damn fine read.

In fact, R.E.M.'s Peter Buck and Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers were so moved by the book that wrote a song, Roswell.  Give it a listen.

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