A Trick I Learned from Dead Men, Hardback

A Trick I Learned from Dead Men Hardback

3 out of 5 (3 ratings)


After the disappearance of their father and the sudden death of their mother, Lee Hart and his deaf brother, Ned, imagine all is lost until Lee lands a traineeship at their local funeral home and discovers there is life after death.

Here, in the company of a crooning ex-publican, a closet pole vaulter, a terminally-ill hearse driver, and the dead of their local town, old wounds begin to heal and love arrives as a beautiful florist aboard a 'Fleurtations' delivery van.

But death is closer than Lee Hart thinks. Somewhere among the quiet lanes and sleepy farms something else is waiting. And it is closing in. Don't bring your work home with you, that's what they say.

Too late. Sometimes sad, often hilarious and ultimately tragic and deeply moving, "A Trick I Learned from Dead Men" is a pitch perfect small masterpiece from a writer described by Richard Ford as having 'a moral grasp upon life that is grave, knowing, melancholy, often extremely funny and ultimately optimistic'.




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Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.

Review by

A Trick I Learned From Dead Men is a quirky, interesting mix of dark humour and much sorrow. The novel is short, with just over 200 well spaced pages.The story is narrated by our 25 year old protagonist, Lee Hart. The style of narration reflects Lee's lack of education and his station in life, but can be off putting ,as it is very colloquial. Lee is a mortician in training. At a very young age, his father simply disappeared from the family in search of work, never to be heard from again. Lee's mother re- married a fellow named Lester, who, after the cancer death of Lee's mother, sits nearly catatonic on the couch watching daytime TV. Lee has a deaf, very mentally disturbed somewhat younger brother, who he also tries to care for.Lee's work as a mortician in training is touching, very graphic and insightful. Lee describes sewing lips together, stabilizing eyeballs, and applying make up to the dead. As Lee narrates " The dead deserve some peace and quiet. Important to respect their needs, it's not like they want much. Dead men need no one and nothing. Fair play to all of them, we could all take a tip." p 137Overall I was disappointed in the novel. Though I am accustomed to enjoying short ,sparse novels, I felt that the characters were underdeveloped, the narrative slight and somewhat annoying, and the ending to be very sudden and ambiguous. Just like the inderminate ending to the novel, I am left feeling puzzled and uncertain as to how to rate this book. 3. 25 stars

Review by
Derek says you grow accustomed to the work one body at a time. I wouldn't disagree. People are people, alive or dead. Some speak to you more than others, simple as.The young narrator Les is surrounded by death. At his work as a mortician in training - but also at home things are "dead" and he can't communicate in a normal way with his deaf brother and depressed stepfather - both are silent - the mothers death have impacted all - also his quirky relationship with the girl he's infatuated with is complicated by her indifference and short sms's that are hard to decipher - i'm not hip with the way youth is texting these days... :)Also the inner voice of Les that we are "placed in" have a distinct style with short, staccato-sentences. Rapid, unfinished statements and sudden change of scenes without much coherence. Experiencing life in this unconnected and almost unreal way. Life and death blurs together. (Glad the novel was a short one, because it's a little irritating style). Derek can get philosophical when he's eating. Life and death, it's all the same, he says. Sometimes I forget which side I'm on, he says. I didn't comment. I know what he means. Death is certainly not a taboo in this novel - it's there on every page - the story begins with three quotes - the middle one is the Bible's "dust to dust" quote from Genesis 3 - surrounding it are two of our cultures big nihilists: A funny Woody Allen and then Kurt Vonnengut's short: "So it goes".The young narrator embodies both reactions toward death: The dark humor and his motto "C'est la vie". Things just happen, don't try to make sense of it. He certainly can't make any sense of his own life when tragedy strikes close at home. God in the middle quote seems to be out of the equation - not able to offer hope or any sense - as in the discussion with his boss Derek about God - if God is infinite or indefinite - doesn't really matter... And at a funeral when the hopeful Bible verses are interspersed with all these non-important stuff and thoughts that are not related at all to the funeral or the Christian message.It was sort of Camus' The Stranger meets Catcher in the Rye - I came to think of both novels when I read it. Not that it's up there with those two. Death - either we joke about it or shrug at it - is still there. I for one vote for "infinite" and place my hope in one who has conquered death. C'est la vie.
Review by

This was an interesting one although I can't say I necessarily enjoyed it, or would recommend it. I don't actually have much to say beyond: the clipped sentences grew less annoying but I never became completely blind to them; and this is one of the few books whose score is made by their ending, which I really liked. Also, I am now a veritable wealth of knowledge on what to do with a corpse. Bring it on.