“The Dead I Know” surprised me. From the blurb, l thought I’d bought an Australian Urban Fantasy novel. I was more than halfway through this short little book before. I finally understood that I was reading mainstream fiction.
By then I was hooked and quite happy with my accidental selection of the story of Aaron Rowe, an isolated, broken teen, plagued by a recurring nightmare and prone to walking in his sleep, who may find salvation through his job as a funeral director in training.
The story is a first-person account of Aaron’s first few weeks working in a funeral home, coming to terms with caring for the bodies of the dead and drowning in the grief and distress of the living left behind. Aaron’s natural reticence is so pronounced that, even living inside his head, it took a long time to mine the pieces of his past and weld them together into a story that gives the true context for his actions.
The descriptions of Aaron’s work are detailed, even when dealing with the most unpleasant aspects of his job but there is nothing voyeuristic about these scenes. In fact, the time Aaron spends with the dead starts to feel like a sanctuary of calm compared to the mystery, stress and violence in the rest of Aaron’s life
in the end, this is a book about the damage death can do to the living and the power kindness has to heal and create hope.
These big themes are handled with a simple realism that amplifies the emotional impact of the story without lapsing into melodrama or cliche. It was a compelling read with a distinctive voice.
The audiobook is narrated by the author. He also has a very distinctive voice. The first time his working-class Australian drawl hit my sesnsitve, over-educated, English ears, I thought, “Good grief. He sounds like he can barely construct a sentence, never mind write a novel.” I wondered if I could get through five hours of listening to a voice like that. Within a few minutes, Scot Gardner’s talent shone through and I set my prejudices aside and settled into the rhythm of the story