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Paul Auster's Sunset Park is set in the sprawling flatlands of Florida, where twenty-eight-year-old Miles is photographing the last lingering traces of families who have abandoned their houses due to debt or foreclosure. Miles is haunted by guilt for having inadvertently caused the death of his step-brother, a situation that caused him to flee his father and step-mother in New York seven years ago.
What keeps him in Florida is his relationship with a teenage high-school girl, Pilar, but when her family threatens to expose their relationship, Miles decides to protect Pilar by going back to Brooklyn, where he settles in a squat to prepare himself to face the inevitable confrontation with his father - a confrontation he has been avoiding for years.
Set against the backdrop of the devastating global recession, and pulsing with the energy of Auster's previous novel Invisible, Sunset Park is as mythic as it is contemporary, as in love with baseball as it is with literature. It is above all, a story about love and forgiveness - not only among men and women, but also between fathers and sons.
Auster (Invisible) is in excellent form for this foray into the tarnished, conflicted soul of Brooklyn. New York native Miles Heller now cleans out foreclosed south Florida homes, but after falling in love with an underage girl and stirring the wrath of her older sister, he flees to Brooklyn and shacks up with a group of artists squatting in the borough's Sunset Park neighborhood. As Miles arrives at the squat, the narrative broadens to take in the lives of Miles's roommates among them Bing, "the champion of discontent," and Alice, a starving writer and the unlikely paths that lead them to their squat. Then there's the matter of Miles's estranged father, Morris, who, in trying to save both his marriage and the independent publishing outfit he runs, may find the opportunity to patch things up with Miles. The fractured narrative takes in an impressive swath of life and history Vietnam, baseball trivia, the WWII coming-home film The Best Years of Our Lives and even if a couple of the perspectives feel weak, Auster's newest is a gratifying departure from the postmodern trickery he's known for, one full of crisp turns of phrase and keen insights.