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Bluesman: A Novel Paperback – February 13, 2001


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Bluesman: A Novel + The Cage Keeper: And Other Stories + The Garden of Last Days: A Novel
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (February 13, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375725164
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375725166
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #492,890 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a gentle and winning first novel by the author of The Cage Keeper and Other Stories , 17-year-old Leo Suther faces some difficult growing up in the summer of 1967. Leo lives in a small Massachusetts town in the Connecticut River Valley with Jim, his father. This summer, he will learn to play blues harmonica from Jim's best friend, Ryder, and will win and then lose the daughter of a self-proclaimed communist who is, to complicate matters, his boss on a construction crew. Against the distant rumbles of the Vietnam War, Leo comes of age, discovers his late mother's inner life through her diaries, suffers ups and downs in his sometimes confused love for girlfriend Allie and impulsively rushes into a series of dangerous decisions, culminating in his enlistment in the Army. The author makes all these developments entirely believable, and Leo's sometimes rocky but deeply loving relationship with Jim is affecting as well. Like his well-known father of the same name, Dubus is a sympathetic and compassionate chronicler of ordinary lives. He understands the rhythms of hard labor and the needs of the people who do it; the sensitivity and decency of his working-class heroes make them genuinely compelling and likable.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

It's the summer of 1967, and Leo Suther is about to turn 18. It's the time of urban riots and heavy fighting in Vietnam, but all that is far from home for Leo, and even the fantastic pennant race of the nearby Red Sox is less on his mind than Allie Donovan. He's just fallen in love with her, is dreaming about marrying her, and is about to learn she's pregnant. That summer of 1967 holds many discoveries for Leo. He learns about his long-dead mother from her journals and poems; from his boss, Allie's father, a crusading Communist, he learns that there are people willing to sacrifice themselves and their families for their beliefs. He learns too that he has a talent for the blues harmonica and that he has the blues in his soul. Dubus ( Broken Vessels, LJ 7/91) captures well those small, mundane moments upon which lives really turn, and he captures too the enthusiasms and confusions of adolescence confronting adulthood. Recommended for both young adult and adult collections.
- Charles Michaud, Turner Free Lib., Randolph, Mass.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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That said, I love that "Bluesman" has a totally different feel.
Gayla Collins
Andre Dubus III, writes in a way that is so pointed, yet understated that when I had finished the book, I could appreciate the complete greatness of it.
Timothy Gager
Dubus is a great storyteller, and he made me care about the characters.
Jean McMillan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 24, 1999
Format: Paperback
A finely-written novel which is both a coming-of-age tale and an examination of the human spirit in all its shame and glory, Bluesman is the story of Leo Sutter, and boy on the verge of being a man in a sleepy paper mill town. Leo is coming to terms with the usual problems which beset all young men-love, sex, responsibility-against the background of a mostly redneck town in Viet Nam-era America. Through Leo's interactions with those close to him-his girlfriend, Allie, her communist father, Chic, Leo's father Jim and-most importantly-his dead mother (through her poetry and diary)-Dubus delicately and expertly examines the human condition. The book draws brilliantly on the blues music Leo so loves, and the strength of his bond with both his mother and father, to create genuine melodrama and subtly compelling plotlines. Dubus has spare, delicately understated style which is far more descriptive than a thousand pages of Danielle Steele could ever be. An enjoyable, potentially life-changing book which had me dusting off my old Lightin' Hopkins records, and which begs for a sequel.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 5, 1997
Format: Paperback
It is not often you find a book that is about ordinary people and yet extraordinary in its telling. Dubus paints a picture of Massachusetts in the mid-sixties, and brings it to life so you can feel the heat and rain of the summer, almost smell the woods and countryside, and almost hear the blues played on harmonica. The characters have depth and can be identified with to the point of feeling their emotion. It was an excellent read which brought tears to my eyes and ended way too soon. It is one of the three best books I have read in the past year and I highly recommend it
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By booknblueslady on November 12, 2001
Format: Paperback
Dazed and confused in the blues
Leo Sayer the young protagonist in Andre Dubus III's book the Bluesman is a young man coming of age in the time of social upheaval of the Vietnam era. Like many young man of that age his interest is sex, passion and music while trying to discover who he is and who he is going to be. Much to his delight he discovers sex with his girlfriend Allie Donovan. While being tutored by Allie on essential knowledge of the opposite sex, Leo is guided by his three father figures on the meaning of life. Leo's father Jim, introduces him to the world of Blues and acquaints Leo with his diseased mother,through her diaries and poetic writings. Leo's uncle Ryder provides harp lessons and helps Leo to feel the blues. Allies father Chick Donovan gives Leo an opportunity to work for him as a carpenter and teaches him the philosophy of Carl Marx.
Throughout all of his lessons Leo exhibits a sensitivity, but remains dazed and confused as to the direction of his life. During this time Leo is faced with some decisions, which others of this era faced as well as some unexpected choices. Dubus, adeptly holds the readers interest and the reader alternately feels frustrated and sympathetic with Leo.
Dubus is a skilled writer and his lyrical style reinforces the dreaminess of Leo's character. It encapsulates the essence of a youth who is impatient to get on with life along with the insecurity of how to go about it.
Bluesman is recommended reading for those familiar with the Vietnam era and those who would like to know more about it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Stephen B. Kutzer on July 21, 1999
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful book, and belongs in the Pantheon of excellent coming of age books. After reading it, I then bought some of the blues music written about - so this became a multimedia joy. Dubus has captured the thought-processes of a teenage boy to a tee.
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Format: Paperback
A few years ago I read "House of Sand and Fog" by this author and thought it was great. That's why I was anxious to read this earlier novel of his. From the blurb on the cover I learned it was set in the late 60s, during a time of political turmoil in America. I therefore thought the author would use his talent to bring us back to a time and place that created major changes in the American landscape.

Well, the story IS about young man's coming of age during this period. But it never deals with any of the real conflicts that were going on at the time. Instead it is about his romance with a young woman and family relationships. And, frankly, some of the people and situations he describes are just not believable. There's the story of his mother, who died when he was a baby but left behind a diary of her life. The boy's father never got over his grief and his recreational activity is playing guitar and playing poker. One of his friends teaches the boy to play the harmonica and we all see that this is the boy's calling. The girl he romances comes from a strange family. Her father, a nut-job communist, is a house builder and tries to force Communist ideals down the throats of the men who work for him. Naturally, violence erupts. This is all supposed to happen in a little Massachusetts town that is so backward that the main characters don't even have a TV. And this is in 1968!

The Vietnam War is just a backdrop to the story. I never got a feeling about the real undercurrent of conflict and change that was happening in the country. Mostly, the story was about a budding love and its consequences. I was soon bored but I pushed myself to finish the book in hopes it would get better. It didn't.
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