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The Garden of Last Days: A Novel Hardcover – May 17, 2008
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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
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.
Top customer reviews
I think, unfortunately, this was a poorly conceived and executed novel by a writer of great talent. However tantalizing the initial premise -- the prospect of a stripper who brings her child to work and loses her daughter woven together with a potential terrorist in the house, an addled customer thrown out over his misplaced love for a dancer and a bouncer with both a conscience a taste for violence -- none of it ultimately comes together. The "connections" prove to be random. There is no plot device, no carefully constructed string of events, no philosophical point of view that ties the characters together. A chance meeting between a stripper and a terrorist on the night a guy gets thrown out of the strip club and picks up the stripper's kid is not the foundation for a novel, whatever the skill of the writer. Anyone of us might be in the room tomorrow with a guy or women who makes news for all the wrong reasons, but that wouldn't make our story worth telling.
The cardinal sin, however, is Dubus gave us very little reason to care about the characters. The portrayal of Bassam, the man bent on terror, is tedious and filled with cardboard ideological utterances. That may befit the character of those who spend their lives plotting how to exact revenge on their supposed Western oppressors, but that didn't make him in the least bit interesting. April, the stripper, demands very little in the way of empathy, and we're given far too little about her to form any kind of emotional connection. The inner monologues of A.J., the reluctant kidnapper, build some momentum, but in the end his actions are far too stupid and misguided to maintain much interest.
The reader waits in vain as he turns the final pages for a conclusion that brings satisfaction. The final message seems to be that life goes on. Okay, but I was left feeling no curiosity about what might happen to the characters who survived. It's a strangely weak novel that certainly doesn't sustain interst over its 500-plus pages. Dubus would have done well to cut the length in half. Best skipped in favor of his beautifully crafted previous novel.
with an alarm that's shows orange if it's on and I have five grand children and ................
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.
April makes one (1) hasty decision that catapults an avalanche of horrific events, which seamlessly collide with one another throughout the book. Really liked the way the author gives a us a backstage pass into the mindsets of the well-developed cast of characters. He tells the tale by alternating the various characters' viewpoints. It is amazing to see the different ways that each interprets the same incident. Each individual's past experiences definitely color his/her perspective.
The writing was exactly what I have come to expect from Dubus--concise, no-nonsense verbiage that effortlessly transports you to the pertinent location and time--Florida in September, 2001. He only divulges details that are crucial to the narrative and doesn't annoy you with unnecessary fluff...NMR