From Publishers Weekly
Dubus's ambitious if uneven follow-up to House of Sand and Fog
begins shortly before 9/11 with stripper April taking her three-year-old daughter, Franny, to work after the babysitter flakes at the last minute. Though she leaves Franny with the club's house mother and intends to keep tabs on her, April's distracted on the floor by Bassam, a Muslim who's in Florida to take flying lessons and (like one of the real 9/11 hijackers) spends early September 2001 throwing around money and living lasciviously. Meanwhile, AJ, a down-on-his-luck local, lingers in the parking lot after getting thrown out for touching a dancer. The slow-starting plot splinters once Franny wanders outside and disappears. Soon, AJ's wanted for kidnapping, April's run through the social service wringers as an unfit parent, and the murky particulars of Bassam's mission come into sharp focus as he struggles with his religious convictions. Dubus gives the breath of life to most of his characters (Bassam—not so much), though the narrative has a mechanical feeling, partially owing to the narrow emotional register Dubus works in: doom and desperation are in plentiful supply from page one, and as the novel fades to black, the reader's left with a roster of sadder-but-wiser Americans to contemplate. (June)
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Dubuss follow-up to "House of Sand and Fog" is inspired by the rumored visit of 9/11 hijackers to a strip club shortly before their attacks. In the fictional Puma Club, in Sarasota, Florida, a twenty-six-year-old named Bassam al-Jizani watches Spring, a stripper, undress, and finds his "hatred for these kufar rising with the knowledge of his own weakness." We know he is entranced, because he does not imagine slitting her throat, as he does with most people he encounters. Bassam recoils from the hedonistic pursuits of the West, yet finds himself drawn to them; losing his virginity to a prostitute, he wonders, "How many years will she be given by the Creator before she will burn?" Imagining the mind of a terrorist, Dubus runs into a familiar problem: Bassams thoughts are a case study in the banality of evil. "Hatred gives him strength," he writes. But it doesnt make him interesting.
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