This slim little book, really a novella at 121 pages, was the winner of the 2013 Paris Literary Prize for good reason. It’s the story of a man named “Taber” – I don’t recall at any time learning if this is a first or last name – a forensic pathologist and partner in the Nashville morgue. As the story opens, he is laboring under two competing areas of concern – one, his teenage daughter, Katie, identified as “a plain, slightly overweight 17-year old girl,” who is about to be stood up by her first date to the prom. The other concern is the recent decision his partners made to allow a reality show, American Autopsy, to begin filming at the morgue. Taber is opposed to the filming, but it becomes apparent that his status as a partner doesn’t seem to carry much weight. He fears his daughter is a sitting duck for any type – “even the crudest” – of romantic attention. At the morgue, Taber worries that “the patients being filmed, the cadavers, are incapable of giving their consent.”
All of this information is relayed in the first page plus one paragraph – to say that Smith has a talent for constructing sentences to maximum efficiency is an understatement. So don’t expect that just because this is a short book, it’s a shallow or superficial story. That, it isn’t!
These two concerns merge when the boy who stands Katie up, whom Taber has begun to despise, turns up in the very morgue where Taber works. This puts Taber in more than one quandry:
* how does his dislike of the boy affect his findings for the autopsy?
* how does his dislike of American Autopsy affect his working relationships?
* how does this particular autopsy, when coupled with the reality show filming, create greater problems in his life?
* how does all of the above impact his relationship with his daughter?
The story propels you forward and not the least because of the precise anatomical discussions of his work that are interlaced with the personal crises that he faces. Taber is a man who “autopsies” his own life, motives, and relationships with the same care and thoroughness that he brings to cadavers.
Now, there is one small problem with this book – as far as I can tell, it is only available at the Shakespeare & Co. Bookstore in Paris. It is even “currently unavailable” on Amazon.com. So, I would suggest that it might be worth a trip to France to pick up this little gem.