My wife, a middle school special education teacher, recommended this book to me. She really liked it because there is such a dearth of books about young black men who are not addicts or gang members or tragically abused or otherwise completely dysfunctional. Matt, the teenage narrator of this story, is a normal kid: he goes to school, he goes to work, he crushes on girls, he hangs out with his best friend. The conflict in his life (and in the story) is external to him. His mother has died of cancer, and his father has turned to booze for solace, leaving Matt to fend for himself in a rough neighborhood. He finds a mentor and a job with Mr. Ray, the director of the local funeral home. To his surprise, Matt finds a great deal of comfort attending funerals at work: seeing other people deal with their grief helps him to process his own.
Matt's emotional journey through grief was subtle and, at times, very beautiful, but on the whole I found this book a little slow. I think it could be a very, very meaningful story for someone going through (or who has gone through) a similar loss, but it didn't register with me on an emotional level (likely because my life experience is very, very different from Matt's), and so while I could appreciate and enjoy the story, it never fully engaged me.