One might expect that Andre Dubus III the author of critically acclaimed stories and novels such as The Garden of Last Days and House Of Sand and Fog (an Oprah pick and a finalist for the National Book Award) would have grown up in a house filled with books and reading – after all his father Andre Dubus was an award-winning short story writer. However, you would be wrong to assume about Dubus’ childhood.
In reality, his father left the family to marry a 19-year old college student, and Andre Dubus III and his three siblings grew up in the 1970s 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.
In his memoir Townie, Dubus chronicles the chaos of his childhood. 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.
Reviews of Townie:
NPR – Dubus III, author of the critically acclaimed novel House of Sand and Fog, relates the story of his childhood and young adulthood with an immediate, raw intensity—it’s at times difficult to read, but it’s almost impossible to turn away. His prose is unaffected in the best way possible; there’s never a hint of preciousness or pretentiousness. And his depictions of the northeastern Massachusetts of the ’70s are stark and evocative; like his father, Dubus III is a master of setting.
Booklist – Dubus chronicles each traumatic incident and realization in stabbing detail. So chiseled are his dramatic memories, his shocking yet redemptive memoir of self-transformation feels like testimony under oath as well as hard-hammered therapy, coalescing, ultimately, in a generous, penetrating, and cathartic dissection of misery and fury, creativity and forgiveness, responsibility and compassion.
Boston Globe – [A] harrowing and strange and beautiful book….an important moment in the growing body of Dubus’s work.
Kirkus Reviews – His compassionate memoir abounds with exquisitely rendered scenes of fighting, cheating, drugging, drinking and loving. A striking, eloquent account of growing up poor and of the making of a writer.