Dubus, whose first book, The House of Sand and Fog, was a finalist for The National Book Award, writes prose that is precise, deliberate, and meticulously crafted. This style is matched word for word by his own narration. Having the author perform a piece of work that is as raw and personal as this one makes for an incredible listening experience. The narration is slow and intimate there's a feeling of being drawn into Dubus' turbulent boyhood, of being alongside him as he comes of age in a strange time and in a strange family situation.
The family situation, in which his father leaves him and his siblings with a hardworking if somewhat financially destitute mother, might as well be another character in the story. Dubus is put in the position of basically having a child for a father. The fact that this father also happens to be a famous writer is rightly relegated to the sidelines most of the time. “Pop”, as he is lovingly referred to, turns a blind eye to his ailing family. He drinks and parties with his children. He philanders. He can never stay with one woman for very long. And yet, it's obvious that he has an immense amount of wisdom, commands great respect, and truly loves his family. He just has a weird, somewhat aloof way of showing it.
One of the triumphs of the narrative is that Dubus does rise above his situation, first through an interest in weightlifting and later through his own career as a writer. What starts as an endless loop of bar brawls, rundown cars, cheap beers, and neighborhood characters ends in a kind of Zen-like state that yields forgiveness and personal success.
Townie is also about two very different worlds. Dubus' life is laid out as a kind of double exposure, growing up with one foot on each side of the invisible fence that is class and education. More than anything though, it's about the decision to leave one kind of life for another, to grow disciplined in the face of hardship. Dubus starts as a townie, but ends up as something else. Gina Pensiero
After their parents divorced in the 1970s, Andre Dubus III and his three siblings grew up with their exhausted working mother in a depressed Massachusetts mill town saturated with drugs and crime. To protect himself and those he loved from street violence, Andre learned to use his fists so well that he was even scared of himself. He was on a fast track to getting killed—or killing someone else—or to beatings-for-pay as a boxer.
Nearby, his father, an eminent author, taught on a college campus and took the kids out on Sundays. The clash of worlds couldn’t have been more stark—or more difficult for a son to communicate to a father. Only by becoming a writer himself could Andre begin to bridge the abyss and save himself. His memoir is a riveting, visceral, profound meditation on physical violence and the failures and triumphs of love.
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Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Suzn F on 15-03-11
More like a 3.25 star rating
I have mixed feelings about this book, Dubus 111's memoir. It is raw and naked, violent and gentle and is about redemption. Dubus grows up in the mean streets near Boston. He is of in my generation, a teenager living with the backdrop of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, the Vietnam War on the television, the movie Billy Jack, Dave Brubeck on the parents turntable and lots available of drugs and sex. His absent father, not there at all for young Andre and his siblings, is always on Andre's mind and in his heart. As an adult, Dubus 111 clearly forgives his father and is abundantly understanding of why he and his sisters and brother were virtually ignored. He quotes his father as saying he felt as though he was "dating his children" since he was afforded only a weeknight and weekend day visitation schedule. I couldn't help but wonder if this contact schedule was self imposed or mandated.
Poverty stricken adolescent Andre turns to violence; is it because of the cultural, interpersonal, internal and familial conflicts he endures? And in the face of his violent acts he strives for clarity. His wish is granted; he comes to believe that all violence just breeds more violence and as he says, it hurts.
Although it makes sense to me that an author would want to narrate his audio book, especially a memoir, I don't think Mr. Dubus' narration does his prose favor. The narration is flat and monotone and although this in a way works, as this is indeed Andre's voice, maybe it's the editing I disliked. His voice comes on and off in spurts, clearly read in random segments so it was mottled in terms of tone, volume and clarity. Overall, I do think I liked this book, and I do so love this author's other works, it just was a bit of a mix for me. I look forward to others' reviews.
14 of 14 people found this review helpful
By David on 20-03-11
I loved this memoir. Dubus zeroes in on the angst of being a poor young man in a single parent household and methodically lays out his life for all to see, moving from a kid who allows himself, his friends, and, most painfully, his family, to be pushed around and bullied at will by others, to his years as a fighter, and one who made a point of interceding on behalf of others' turmoil. Finally, he begins writing in earnest, and through his writing begins to understand his best role in the world. It is heartfelt, open, and honest. I found it difficult at times to hear of the physical confrontations with others, but he redeems himself, both for himself and the reader. Great memoir, highly recommended.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful