Whelp, guys, its that last stretch of break for me. The calm before the storm. In a couple weeks, school will start up in full swing again, and I know that I will be super busy, so right now, I am trying to read and review as many books as possible. Hopefully, I can get at least a bit of a handle on my TBR so that it doesn’t completely overwhelm me once school is barreling me down once again.
This week, I had the chance to read an ARC of a novel that was sent to my by publisher W. W. Norton & Company. Gone So Long is the first novel in a decade that Andre Dubus III has written, who you might know from House of Sand and Fog. His new novel left me with a lot of thoughts. The synopsis follows:
Andre Dubus III’s first novel in a decade is a masterpiece of thrilling tension and heartrending empathy.
Few writers can enter their characters so completely or evoke their lives as viscerally as Andre Dubus III. In this deeply compelling new novel, a father, estranged for the worst of reasons, is driven to seek out the daughter he has not seen in decades.
Daniel Ahearn lives a quiet, solitary existence in a seaside New England town. Forty years ago, following a shocking act of impulsive violence on his part, his daughter, Susan, was ripped from his arms by police. Now in her forties, Susan still suffers from the trauma of a night she doesn’t remember, as she struggles to feel settled, to love a man and create something that lasts. Lois, her maternal grandmother who raised her, tries to find peace in her antique shop in a quaint Florida town but cannot escape her own anger, bitterness, and fear.
Cathartic, affirming, and steeped in the empathy and precise observations of character for which Dubus is celebrated, Gone So Long explores how the wounds of the past afflict the people we become, and probes the limits of recovery and absolution.
While the beginning of a book is usually what draws me in, Gone So Long had a start that frustrated me quite a bit. The prologue is part of Susan’s memoir that she is trying to write, and that really tripped me up. It is really hard to understand her flashbacks, (when they’re part of her novel, or when she is just thinking about them) particularly in the beginning. Once I got midway, I began to enjoy more so the anguish that came from writing her memories out, and the way that certain flashbacks trigger other ones – but to start the novel this way, made it much more confusing than it needed to be.
There was also, all throughout the book, a lot of switching back and forth between flashbacks, point of view, and there were times where the switching of paragraphs, or who someone was thinking about felt more jumbled than the thoughts of a drunk. Countless times, I would have to backtrack and tease apart exactly who “she” or “he” was.
However, this book, for all its faults is also very poignant and real. The beginning was not for me, that much is true, and I couldn’t really make up my mind whether I liked it or not until I got about halfway in, but once I really fell into the story, I really felt what the novel was meant to make me feel.
In particular, the point of view of the father and daughter is both frustrating, and completely accurate. Not to give too much away, the journey that both take is flawed, but there are no rose colored glasses – and I love that about this novel. It addresses just how long and how deep a rift can occur after the sort of horrific violence we read about.
The ending left me all up in my feels. Once again a small spoiler alert, but not too much of one – the ending is sort of unresolved. There’s some resolution, and I read somewhere that someone was of the opinion that it was too simplified, but I think its very real. We don’t always get resolution. We don’t always get that complete clarity. Sometimes we want to say things, and we find ourselves unable to say them. Sometimes we feel some way we wish we didn’t, and other times we don’t feel some way we wish we did.
One of the lines in my book really caught my attention, “Everyone’s heart was so close to the skin, yet also dark and infinite and a million miles away.” Deep, yet understandable, relateable – real. I think that those are some words that not only describe these words, but the novel itself. This novel will be available October 2nd, so if you’re looking for something that may be a little hard to follow, but that will expose human nature, give this one a read, and as always, let me know whether you feel the same way about it!