Friday, October 28, 2011

Mini-Review of "The Garden of Last Days" by Andre Dubus III

Ever since I was introduced to "The House of Sand and Fog," Andre Dubus III has been one of my favorite contemporary authors. As he made clear in his recent memoir, "Townie," (recently review in this Blog) he has spent the better part of his lifetime coming to grips with his own internal rage.

As a result, he is able to tap into the rage of the colorful characters he creates in his novels and short stories. "The Garden of Last Days" is tour de force page-turner. I sped through the book's 535 pages in just a few days because I could not wait to find out how all of the threads and characters would be woven together at the denouement

Dubus has pulled off a very difficult feat; he has created a cast of characters who are all perennial losers and are, for the most part, unlikeable. Yet I found myself caring about each one, and wondering if the end of the book would find them alive, dead, happy, bereft, lost or reconciled. Picture the cast of characters you might expect to encounter at 2:00 AM in a 7-Eleven at a desolate Florida strip mall and you have the crew that the author has created for this story. A stripper with a three year-old daughter is forced to bring the child to the club one night because the usual babysitter has been rushed to the hospital with a possible heart attack. The events that ensue, including the little girl's abduction and the stripper's encounter with a future 9/11 terrorist, show the underbelly of American life. One of the remarkable achievements is the author's ability to let each character speak with a unique and authentic voice that allows the reader to empathize - if not agree with - the character's view of the world.

I continue to work my way through all of Dubus' writing. I have yet to be disappointed with anything I have read that he has authored.



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