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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
Family Business by Dave and Erin Plow is a no-holds-barred description of life as a “body collector” for Dave's father’s family business in the funeral industry. Dave worked for his father and even as a little boy he had accompanied his father on calls, so he had no fear of the job. What he discovers is that the work becomes soul-destroying for him and deep down he knows running the family business is not something he ultimately aspires to. His passion is music and he dreams of a life touring across Canada doing gigs as a punk rock musician and a musical comedian. His father, though, is obsessed with the family business and is harder on his own son than he is on other employees. Before long, he finds the daily 24-hour-on-call grind is affecting every part of his life, along with his almost non-existent social life. The bodies he collects and the disgusting state that some of them are in weigh heavily on his subconscious and affect his dreams – when he is actually able to sleep. Somehow, he must find a way out of this grind and away from his manipulative and law-skirting father who dominates his every waking moment.
Family Business is not a story for the faint-hearted. Author Dave Plow pulls no punches and I particularly enjoyed some of the dark humor that often accompanies workers in industries that routinely deal with death and mutilation. Everyone has their own way of coping with such wholesale tragedy and the funeral industry is no exception. It intrigued me that he was able to think so philosophically about life and death even though he was daily surrounded by carnage and horror. The two dynamics that stood out most were that between the author and his father, as well as between the author and his “girlfriend” Paige. Relationships are clearly difficult in this industry and one feels deep empathy with the author as he sought to deal with a father who was not only mean and manipulative but clearly valued his business above his family and his son. The romantic relationship with Paige was also fascinating. By dating someone within the “death” industry, he was able to avoid the misconceptions that many outsiders have of people that routinely deal with death on a daily basis and yet his perceptions of everyone’s mortality were so skewed by his job that any relationship was always going to be difficult. This is an interesting book on a subject that most of us avoid religiously and few of us understand. Definitely a thought-provoking read.