Grave robbing. Secrecy. Torture. Sickness. Pain. Hope. Family.
When Joey's mom dies and he is sent to rural Iowa to live with a father about whom he knows nothing, Joey is not hoping for the best. But when he finds "Dad," also known around town as The Garbage Man, who disappears for days at a time in the middle of the night, has little food and too many books, and couldn't care less about caring for Joey, he resolves to just take care of himself. But the extreme bullying he encounters at high school breaks him more than he thought possible, and his father ultimately can't ignore the kid in his life.
So Ken Harnett and Joey Crouch begin a journey that neither thought they'd take together. Harnett is one of a small group of successful grave robbers that exist in the country. They are rivals and family alike, each working alone to score the treasures that exist in graves and to strive to, in their own ways, restore dignity to the dead. But Joey gets caught up in too much emotion that he can't handle, a lifestyle that he struggles to understand, and a family dynamic that both doesn't - and does - include his beloved mother.
This is an intense and dark read, with a smattering of hope - enough to ensure that there will be an equal amount pain. Recommended for high school readers and older, especially those with a liking for books with an edge, stories that are slightly creepy, or simply for an out-of-the-box exploration of family and loyalty. (Those who like this title might also like The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs.)
Reviewed by kate the librarian.