To be clear, the book isn’t about gremlins, I’m just calling it a gremlin book because it’s weird and small and has claws but is also kind of harmless and laughable in the right light. Also also, gremlin is a fun word to use.
This book is impossible to *really* talk about without spoilers, so I’m going to have a pretty big spoiler section and a smaller non-spoiler section in this review. I will try to keep the spoiler section relatively spoiler-free in the sense that I won’t spoil plot twists and turns, but it will involve talking about the “hidden premise” of this book, and I know a lot of people like to go into books cold. On the other hand, I was spoiled for this hidden premise and it’s why I picked up the book in the first place. So you have a choice!
Also impossible? Classifying this book into a genre. After you read it, I dare you to come back here and tell me I’m wrong. But that is part of this book’s charm, its weirdness and genre-defying nature. Surface level, this book is a fake memoir of someone calling himself “Art Barbara” (this is a penname), centering on his long-time friendship with a girl named Mercy Brown (also a fake name), which started when he was seventeen years old and had started a club at school to look good on his college applications. The club was called “The Pallbearers Club,” and its members (read: just Mercy and Art) attended funerals for elderly or homeless people who had no one else. The book is in the form of a manuscript, which later-in-life Mercy has found and annotated in red pen.
And now, for the (light) spoilers.
SPOILERS The reason Art Barbara calls this a memoir and not an autobiography is that it’s focused on his relationship with Mercy, and what he thinks Mercy is, which is basically some sort of folkloric vampire that sucks on your soul. Art gradually begins to believe that not only is Mercy a vampire, but that she is at fault for most of the things that have gone wrong in his life. Mercy’s annotations make it clear that she does not agree with him, and interplay between the notes and the text are where most of the conflicts in the story come from. By the end, both the notes and the narrative have gone on separate arcs, and in my opinion, come together beautifully. At the same time, this book is about a man who thinks his friend is a vampire who is ruining his life, when the friend is most likely just a normal human woman. The psychological layering (and meaning I pulled from it) was very impressive END SPOILERS.
The last line of this book gave me chills, and really did a truly excellent job of pulling the whole thing together. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I think this book might be one of those that when I eventually re-read, I’ll bump up the rating because it just sits in your brain getting better with time.