Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Book Review: "Sunset Park" by Paul Auster

I've been reading Paul Auster's fiction for more than 20 years now. Most of his books are staggeringly well-written; sometimes, he doesn't quite hit the mark, which I felt was the case with his last two books, Man in the Dark and Invisible. His latest novel, Sunset Park, shows he's back in fine form, as it both tugs at your heart and makes you think.

Miles Heller is fairly directionless. Seven years ago he dropped out of college and stepped out of his parents' lives; since then, he has drifted around the country without any real plans. While living in Florida and working on a crew that empties foreclosed homes, he meets Pilar, a wise-beyond-her-years high school senior, and the two fall in love. Running afoul of Pilar's older sister, Miles flees back to his native New York until Pilar's 18th birthday. In New York, he joins his old friend, Bing, and two others as they squat in an abandoned house in Brooklyn's Sunset Park neighborhood. Miles uses the return home as an opportunity to reconnect with his parents and mentor Pilar from afar, while each of his housemates struggles with their own self-discoveries, and his father, Morris, deals with his own shaky marriage and his fears of mortality.

While the book starts out being narrated by Miles alone, after a point his voice is joined by those of his housemates and both of his parents, publisher Morris and actress Mary-Lee. Each has a unique viewpoint and each character occupies their own space with their own unique voice. I found this book tremendously compelling and thought-provoking, as it was both about big and small ideas. This is a story about relationships, self-confidence (and the lack thereof), discovering your true self, baseball and seizing opportunities that come your way. I found the ending a little too melodramatic and predictable, but it also left me to imagine what the next steps would be in the characters' lives. So good to see Paul Auster back on track again!!

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