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The Garden of Last Days: A Novel Hardcover – May 17, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; First Edition edition (May 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393041654
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393041651
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 0.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (150 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,162,942 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

Dubus’s 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: Bassam’s thoughts are a case study in the banality of evil. "Hatred gives him strength," he writes. But it doesn’t make him interesting.
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Customer Reviews

The book just doesn't go anywhere.
Quantum Leap
I was bored, I wasn't interested in any of the characters, and I felt like it was constant repetition.
B. Tracy
Characters are well written and multidimensional.
A unhappy customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

101 of 119 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
While House of Sand and Fog addressed the heartbreaking dilemma of a proud Iranian immigrant faced with the intractable demands of a young woman and a bureaucratic blunder with tragic consequences pre-9/11, The Garden of Last Days tumbles into a much darker landscape on the eve of America's loss of innocence. The internal drama is played out on the tawdry runway of a Florida Gulf Coast strip club, the Puma Club for Men, where April is forced to break her own strict rule, taking her three-year-old daughter, Franny, to work rather than miss an opportunity to salt away more money toward a future free of the decadent circumstances in which she now makes her living. April is a bit of an anomaly, with a well-thought out plan for escaping the downward spiral of such employment, most of the other dancers fortifying themselves with drugs and the occasional extra date with customers after the club closes. But April is thrown off the usual rhythm of her bifurcated life, the dayworld/nightworld of April/Spring when her landlady goes to the hospital unexpectedly with an anxiety attack.

Deeply troubled by this merging of two worlds, April has every reason to doubt the wisdom of her decision as the shift grinds on. Tina, who agrees to keep an eye on Franny while April dances is at best lackadaisical about Franny's care in a cramped office just off the women's dressing room, Tina easily distracted by the demands of her boss. Tiny Franny, in her pink pajamas, is by turns enthralled by her Disney movies and snacks, but needing constant reassurance that her mother will soon take her home.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By J. Zimmer on March 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The beauty of this book was the writer's uncanny ability to share the insides of his characters' heads in a believable way. The people are so genuine and the results of their random collisions with each other are so predictable that the tension is in the inevitability of the outcome. You KNEW some characters were going to be trouble right from the start and it was excruciating not to be able to intervene, to watch the night unravel.
Having been connected to the judicial system (in a good way) for 30 some years, I found the characters' flawed thought processes were consistant and believable. I didn't think it was slow and I didn't want to miss a moment of the writing, as I sometimes do when authors describe scenery and Yaddah Yaddah Yaddah. If you are a student of human motivation and behavior you will like this book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By ViAmber on March 5, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
...of reading this incredible novel. What a storyteller, Dubus is! I could not put the book down and read it basically straight through in 2 days. I cared about almost all of the characters, except Bassam. I felt that Dubus really did his research on some of the factors that led up to 9/11. The strip club subculture was fascinating and sounded very realistic. I really cared about April and Franny! AND I cared about AJ, bless his doofus heart. I kept hoping he'd get out of jail and lead a more productive and happy life.

Some of the reviewers have commented on Dubus' writing being overblown, but I couldn't disagree more. As a matter of fact, I noticed that with the closing of each chapter the last sentence would be written in the most beautiful, descriptive manner. Not overblown at all. A great writer and an incredible read.
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29 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Chris Jaronsky TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book solely based on Stephen King's review in EW, so needless to say, I was expecting a lot. Most of the book takes place over the course of one night at a strip club in Florida. It is essentially based on a bad choice made by April, the stripper, taking her child to work with her instead of staying home and missing a night of tips. It follows the characters as they are connected to April and her daughter and drags on endlessly over every last detail. I felt the book was overly lengthy and about 2/3 into it I skimmed the chapters about Bassam, the 9/11 terrorist. It just became too much background info and not enough story. I just kept plodding along expecting something else to happen...waiting for 9/11 and how all these characters I had invested 400 pages in would react to the tragedy and actually being a small part in the last days of one of the terrorists. I was, however, let down. When the book finally reached 9/11 it was utterly anti-climatic, it just wound down and ultimately ended with no major revelations or surprise, I suppose that was the point.

Shelly
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Robyn on October 21, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This story was a disappointment.I really enjoyed House Of Sand and Fog and was looking forward to another book from Mr Dubus 111.I read some different reviews and decided to go ahead after one saying "I am really glad I stuck with it".I didn't enjoy the story subject and I do feel his books need to be edited more.As for reviews I think if they come to the point quickly a decision on purchase can be made knowing you are going to enjoy reading.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Eric J. Juneau on December 31, 2013
Format: Paperback
Dear Mr. Dubus III, I recently wrote some MS Word macros that help to improve a novel's readability. Please write to me so I can send them to you. One of my favorites is the one that highlights sentences more than 20 words long. Although in your case, I would have to tweak the code so that your CPU won't smoke when you run it. Also, paragraphs probably shouldn't be more than one page.

This book feels like word vomit. The author just started writing and writing and writing without having any idea what or why or where the plot should go. It takes halfway through the book until there's an actual game-changing incident.

The setting is a strip club in Florida where there are three main characters. The main one is April who was forced to bring her daughter to work. She ends up giving a private dance to Bassam (the second character), a muslim extremist who will NOT SHUT UP about how he hates America, thinks we're all pig-dog whores, and how Allah is truth.

The third is A.J. an alcoholic who got his hand busted in an incident in the club. And we get to follow his repetitious drunken rantings about his wife and kid (who have a restraining order against him) as he drives back to the club. There, he finds April's daughter wandering around lost and thinks it's a good idea to "save" her. When he realizes he dun goofed, he ends up ditching her in someone's car. The police catch him after he finishes faking busting his hand on his job site (for workman's comp), which he has not shut up about since the beginning.

I hate this book. I hated it when I was reading it. I hated it when I was done. I almost stopped several times. I should have stopped. But I figured A) Stephen King recommended it B) I should read some literary fiction once in a while.
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