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And Sons: A Novel Audible – Unabridged

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Editorial Reviews

Who is A. N. Dyer? & Sons is a literary masterwork for readers of The Art of Fielding, The Emperor's Children, and Wonder Boys - the panoramic, deeply affecting story of an iconic novelist, two interconnected families, and the heartbreaking truths that fiction can hide.

A Newsday summer reading pick

The funeral of Charles Henry Topping on Manhattan's Upper East Side would have been a minor affair (his 200-word obit in The New York Times notwithstanding) but for the presence of one particular mourner: the notoriously reclusive author A. N. Dyer, whose novel Ampersand stands as a classic of American teenage angst. But as Andrew Newbold Dyer delivers the eulogy for his oldest friend, he suffers a breakdown over the life he's led and the people he's hurt and the novel that will forever endure as his legacy. He must gather his three sons for the first time in many years - before it's too late.

So begins a wild, transformative, heartbreaking week, as witnessed by Philip Topping, who, like his late father, finds himself caught up in the swirl of the Dyer family. First there's son Richard, a struggling screenwriter and father, returning from self-imposed exile in California. In the middle lingers Jamie, settled in Brooklyn after his 20-year mission of making documentaries about human suffering. And last is Andy, the half brother whose mysterious birth tore the Dyers apart 17 years ago, now in New York on spring break, determined to lose his virginity before returning to the prestigious New England boarding school that inspired Ampersand. But only when the real purpose of this reunion comes to light do these sons realize just how much is at stake, not only for their father but for themselves and three generations of their family.

In this daring feat of fiction, David Gilbert establishes himself as one of our most original, entertaining, and insightful authors. & Sons is that rarest of treasures: a startlingly imaginative novel about families and how they define us, and the choices we make when faced with our own mortality.

©2013 David Gilbert (P)2013 Random House

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80 of 90 people found the following review helpful By Brendan Moody VINE VOICE on July 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A couple different phrases come to mind when I try to summarize David Gilbert's new novel. One is "all dressed up with no place to go." & SONS is full of striking characters, carefully-crafted prose, and well-evoked (if familiar) scenes from urban life. It's the story of two families, the Dyers and the Toppings, and the way their lives have been shaped by one of the patriarchs, reclusive novelist A. N. Dyer. When his lifelong friend Charlie Topping dies, Dyer confronts his own mortality, inviting his two older sons to come home and bond with their teenage half-brother, his namesake. Jamie and Richard agree, but with agendas of their own. Meanwhile, Charlie Topping's son, his life in shambles, insinuates himself into the Dyers' reunion. The stage is set for... well, something, you would think. But instead of evolving, the narrative wanders down several dead ends before stumbling into an unearned climax. There are pieces of several promising novels here, but they're jumbled together in a way that undermines rather than reinforcing them. Fortunately, the other phrase that comes to mind is "magnificent failure." The in-the-moment experience is strong enough that the larger failings aren't fatal.

I mentioned several promising novels. One would focus on Philip Topping, son of the deceased, who narrates. He's ostensibly an unreliable narrator, his simultaneous affection for and resentment of the Dyers coloring his behavior. But, though Philip is just about unsympathetic enough for the purpose, Gilbert doesn't use the device of unreliability in an effective way. Unreliable narrators work best when they betray themselves, when the reader is made reasonably certain just how extensive their dishonesty is.
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37 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Ken C. on August 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
David Gilbert's ambitious & SONS is one of those books that will as easily garner 5 stars as one. There's that much to like -- and seriously wonder about. Let's start with the problematic aspects so we can finish on a high note. While the book centers on an aging, J.D. Salingeresque writer named Andrew (A.N.) Dyer and his three sons, it is supposedly narrated by Philip Topping, son of Andrew's best pal Charlie, whose funeral opens the book. Seems innocent enough, but the point-of-view is convoluted. Though he plays a minor role in the 400+ page book, Philip seems to be an omniscient narrator for most of the scenes he is not privy too.

Then, when he's on hand, he's more like a 1st-person POV narrator, a Nick Carraway sort, if you will. Most damning of all, he's a bit creepy in his hero worship of Andrew Dyer and in his hanging around in general. He asks if he can stay at the Dyer home after his dad's funeral and, thanks to the awkward situation, is granted permission even though no one but him took the offer seriously. I'm left to wonder why Philip was included in the first place. The book would have done as well -- or better -- without him.

Another deficiency is Gilbert's tendency to overwrite. There's no digression he's willing to forgo, no back story he's willing to pass on. Instead, he indulges himself, sometimes for dozens of meandering pages. The reader gets a bit lost, brushes back the spider webs, and wonders aloud, "Why am I here again?"

All that said, the book has its merits. First and foremost, Gilbert is an idea man and can grace the page was some eloquent sentences at times -- the kind you stop, reread, and say, "Wish I thought of that.
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51 of 66 people found the following review helpful By S. Dean on July 25, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Like many contemporary novelists, "& Sons" is an attempt to capture many of the feelings we want out of literature. While I had not read any of his other works, it is apparent that author David Gilbert is familiar with larger expectations for complex works by interweaving multiple viewpoints, dealing with darker themes in familial relationships, and throwing in the unexpected. In terms of style and tone, Gilbert does come across as different, unique and fresh.

However, Gilbert's novel has a few detractors that make it have less of a broad appeal. For the most part it is a study of relationships between reclusive, privileged, New Yorker fathers and sons. While I understand the romance with the New York City life, and reflections of a Woody Allen view of the city, I still am not sure how relatable these characters are on the whole. Adding to the problem, is the bouncing weave of storylines and viewpoints that at times is hard to follow, especially when the father is named Andrew, and the son is called Andy. To confuse matters more, Gilbert drops in copies of handwritten letters that are often hard to read but essential in terms of characters reacting to these letters, and sections of the fictional author A.N. Dyer's novels.

As well, the novel comes across to the reader as trying too hard. In the course of building this reclusive author's character, Dyer's biggest classical piece of literature is called "Ampersand" and is constantly compared to "Catcher in the Rye." Instead of feeling like a natural comparison, the number of times this is mentioned make it instead feel like that one friend who has gotten to meet a few B-list celebrities, and constantly namedrops at the most casual of dinner parties.
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