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A Newsday summer reading pick
The funeral of Charles Henry Topping on Manhattan’s Upper East Side would have been a minor affair (his 200-word obit in The New York Times notwithstanding) but for the presence of one particular mourner: the notoriously reclusive author A. N. Dyer, whose novel Ampersand stands as a classic of American teenage angst. But as Andrew Newbold Dyer delivers the eulogy for his oldest friend, he suffers a breakdown over the life he’s led and the people he’s hurt and the novel that will forever endure as his legacy. He must gather his three sons for the first time in many years - before it’s too late.
So begins a wild, transformative, heartbreaking week, as witnessed by Philip Topping, who, like his late father, finds himself caught up in the swirl of the Dyer family. First there’s son Richard, a struggling screenwriter and father, returning from self-imposed exile in California. In the middle lingers Jamie, settled in Brooklyn after his 20-year mission of making documentaries about human suffering. And last is Andy, the half brother whose mysterious birth tore the Dyers apart 17 years ago, now in New York on spring break, determined to lose his virginity before returning to the prestigious New England boarding school that inspired Ampersand. But only when the real purpose of this reunion comes to light do these sons realize just how much is at stake, not only for their father but for themselves and three generations of their family.
In this daring feat of fiction, David Gilbert establishes himself as one of our most original, entertaining, and insightful authors. & Sons is that rarest of treasures: a startlingly imaginative novel about families and how they define us, and the choices we make when faced with our own mortality.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Doug P. on 08-06-13
Full of brilliant bits and pieces
I came to this novel by way of a brilliant short story by David Gilbert in the "New Yorker" in which every detail is realistic and familiar - until the main character gets drunk and vomits, and the vomit turns out to be something like a baby. The rest of the story is about how he deals with the vomit baby, and it's funny, entertaining and truly heartbreaking. I wanted more of that. The novel "& Sons" is not like that short story. Late in the novel there's a bizarre bit about cloning that seems to attempt a vomit baby type vibe, maybe, but in any case it doesn't succeed. There are other parts where the storytelling doesn't succeed as well. The dullest son is a documentary filmmaker who records the death, day by day, of an old girlfriend as cancer consumes her. Then he digs up her grave and continues to record her decomposition day by day. This over-long story line is probably making a clever point about something - art maybe, or grief - but it fails to be compelling or profound or funny. It's a little upsetting, but that's not why I hated it - it's also unconvincing and boring. I almost abandoned the book. I'm glad I continued listening because the book is full of brilliant and entertaining moments. The writing is so good - full of vivid details and descriptions - that I would often pause the story and try to memorize them. It's worth reading despite its obvious flaws.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
By Dorothy on 08-19-13
I finally finished
Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?
I would say that it was difficult to finish this book. By the time it was over I had no interest in the characters or their lives. I agree that there are passages of brilliant writing -but for the most part it was hard for me to stay engaged in the story.
Do you think And Sons needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?
3 of 3 people found this review helpful