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This is a beautiful, excruciatingly honest, and brave memoir from a gifted writer of fiction. It's often too raw and shocking for comfort, but therein lies its power. The author's life changes forever when his father, the renowned writer Andre Dubus, leaves his mother for a young student. Thereafter they live in borderline poverty, and Andre evolves into an angry young man—angry with his father and with school bullies who humiliate and abuse the defenseless. As a teenager, he embraces violence as a means to right the wrongs of bullies in a superhero sort of way (in happier times he used to watch Batman episodes with his siblings and neighbor Kurt Vonnegut when his father and Vonnegut were involved with the Iowa Writers Workshop). For many years thereafter he tries in a slow, harrowing and riveting struggle to break free of this violent proclivity. Likewise, it takes him decades to come to terms with his feelings for his father, and to ultimately realize that anger at, and forgiveness and love for someone can coexist in one’s heart. His journey to becoming a great writer, a man of understanding who embraces empathy and forgiveness changed me in some way forever (maybe by seeing the possibility that no matter what baggage we are burdened with in our lives, it's never too late for redemption), and I can think of no higher praise for a book.— From Jeanne's Picks
“This is an intensely courageous portrait of growing up after Dubus' renowned writer father leaves his mother, him, and his three siblings to confront the desolate, broken-down world of the mill towns of Massachusetts while he, in turn, teaches in nearby elitist colleges. Dubus bravely bares the veins of violence, fear, survival and love with a tender toughness, a linguistic grace, and an utter absence of rancor that places him among the most effective American memoirists writing today.”
— Margot Liddell, Norwich Bookstore, Norwich, VT
"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.