"Dubus relives, absent self-pity or blame, a life shaped by bouts of violence and flurries of tenderness." —Vanity Fair
After their parents divorced in the 1970s, Andre Dubus III and his three siblings grew up with their overworked mother in a depressed Massachusetts mill town saturated with drugs and everyday violence. Nearby, his father, an eminent author, taught on a college campus and took the kids out on Sundays. The clash between town and gown, between the hard drinking, drugging, and fighting of "townies" and the ambitions of students debating books and ideas, couldn’t have been more stark. In this unforgettable memoir, acclaimed novelist Dubus shows us how he escaped the cycle of violence and found empathy in channeling the stories of others—bridging, in the process, the rift between his father and himself.
Long before he became the highly acclaimed author of House of Sand and Fog, Dubus shuffled and punched his way through a childhood and youth full of dysfunction, desperation, and determination. Just after he turned 12, Dubus's family fell rapidly into shambles after his father the prominent writer Andre Dubus not only left his wife for a younger woman but also left the family in distressing poverty on the violent and drug-infested side of their Massachusetts mill town. For a few years, Dubus escaped into drugs, embracing the apathetic "no-way-out" attitude of his friends. After having his bike stolen, being slapped around by some of the town's bullies, and watching his brother and mother humiliated by some of the town's thugs, Dubus started lifting weights at home and boxing at the local gym. Modeling himself on the Walking Tall sheriff, Buford Pusser, Dubus paid back acts of physical violence with physical violence. Ultimately, he decided to take up his pen and write his way up from the bottom and into a new relationship with his father. In this gritty and gripping memoir, Dubus bares his soul in stunning and page-turning prose.
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Excellent read. A man's life revealed as compelling as this is rare. I am glad he came to the realization about the negativity that violence creates. All small cities in middle America have youths that are lost because of broken families. It seems certain that Andre will do a better job insulating his children while helping them understand that diversity in our society does not have to lead to disfunction.
My second reading of this fine book.
Chapter 20, best line in the book, in my humble but well read opinion...
"Whatever had ended their marriage was scar tissue no longer sensitive to the touch."
Mr. Dubus III is a revealing, honest and exciting writer.
Startling Self Awareness
This book was given to me as a gift by someone who thought I shared a lot of the same traits as the author. I think her main focus was on the contradiction of a thinking man dousing himself in the physicality of boxing and weight lifting, something both the author and I spent time with. What I experienced reading this book was the realization that I wasn't the only thoughtful, insightful man who'd been almost enjoyably violent in his youth and spent years trying to work all of that out in his own head. We grew up in different parts of the country and under different circumstances, but the story is so familiar I often felt I was reading my own story. I couldn't stop reading this book, no matter how uncomfortable it made me with my own past. There is nothing so raw or real as a man baring his soul and all the ugly little parts of it he secretly hoped others would never know about. Riveting from start to finish. Thanks for telling your story.