A chilling memoir of the Tri-State Crematory incident
In February 2002, hundreds of abandoned and decayed bodies were discovered at the Tri-State Crematory in rural Georgia, making it the largest mass desecration in modern American history. The perpetrator—a well-respected family man and a former hometown football star—had managed to conceal the horror for five years.
Among the bodies found at the Tri-State Crematory was that of Brent Hendricks's father. To quell the psychic disturbance surrounding the desecration, Hendricks embarked on a pilgrimage to the crematory site in Georgia. In A Long Day at the End of the World, he reveals his very complicated relationship with the South as he tries to reconcile his love-hate feelings for the culture with his own personal and familial history there, and his fascination with the disturbed landscape. In achingly beautiful prose, Hendricks explores his fraught relationship with his father—not just the grief that surrounded his death but the uncanniness of his resurrection.
It's a story that's so heart-wrenching, so unbelievable, and so sensational that it would be easy to tell it without delving deep. But Hendricks's inquiry is unrelenting, and he probes the extremely difficult questions about the love between a parent and a child, about the way human beings treat each other—in life and in death—and about the sanctity of the body. It's the perfect storm for a true Southern Gothic tale.
Sharing many of the same qualities that made his first book of poems, Thaumatrope, a fascinating conceptual and narrative success, Hendricks's excellent nonfiction debut combines personal and psychological reflections to understand the largest mass desecration in modern American history, in which 339 decomposing bodies were found in February 2002 on the overgrown premises of the Tri-State Crematory in rural north Georgia. Seven years after the death of Hendricks's father, he had been disinterred by his widow who had developed a phobia about being buried in the ground and sent to Tri-State to be cremated before being sent to New Mexico to be scattered over the mountains with her upon her death. As Hendricks recounts his traveling to Tri-State to find out if, in fact, his father was actually one of the bodies found there, he finds himself musing over a range of issues: his troubled relationship with his father and the irony of Tri-State being "the final place of unrest for a restless man"; his own "predisposition to prophetic revelation and doomsday excitability" that leads him to see the world around him as if "verything was disturbed ground"; and a final epiphany that the idea of his father "animated and engaged, rising from the unhappy earth" can help him to a new kind of living "that would not draw me away from this world but would bring me back here."