The Garden of Last Days: A Novel Paperback – Jun 2 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
This fascinating novel is a powerful look at connection and love played out inside of a strip club in Florida. The central character is April, a stripper forced to bring her child to work because her babysitter has a panic attack. A male narrator seems a poor choice, as a strong female performance would have captured the essence of the story far better. Dan John Miller reads clearly and with good pacing, but his deep monotone lacks emotion. While the writing is certainly first rate and the characters completely realistic, Miller fails to capture the listener's attention. A W.W. Norton hardcover (Reviews, Mar. 17). (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Muscular and disquieting and turn-the-pages-so-fast-you-tear-them good. — Esquire
Storytelling of the finest kind . . . [an] incandescent and absorbing novel. — Boston Sunday Globe
A very fast and entertaining read. . . . Every passage is expertly, elegantly achieved. — Madison Smart Bell (Philadelphia Inquirer)
Top Customer Reviews
This story was very entertaining, and reads quickly.
Andre does a good job of intertwining all the ordinary/everyday character's stories into the final conclusion at the end of the book.
This is a different book from the House of Sand & Fog, as there are more characters, and many sub-plots, but still a good book and enjoyable read.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Deeply troubled by this merging of two worlds, April has every reason to doubt the wisdom of her decision as the shift grinds on. Tina, who agrees to keep an eye on Franny while April dances is at best lackadaisical about Franny's care in a cramped office just off the women's dressing room, Tina easily distracted by the demands of her boss. Tiny Franny, in her pink pajamas, is by turns enthralled by her Disney movies and snacks, but needing constant reassurance that her mother will soon take her home. The following hours are filled with a heart-stopping chain of events portending disaster, the incessant beat of the DJ's selections as each stripper takes to the stage, the drunken shouts of customers paying for a show, the exchange of money for services, all under the guise of a good time. April is watched: by Louis, her lascivious boss; by Lonnie, a bouncer who views "Spring" as different from the others; by Bassam, a chain-smoking, intense young man from Saudi Arabia who walks straight into the embrace of evil, unable to resist the seduction of this foreign country's blatant disregard for modesty. On the cusp of a great personal sacrifice, Bassam covets April's attention in the private Champagne Room, willing to pay handsomely for his moral digression.
Fleshed out by the disaffection of a loud-mouthed customer, AJ, who is thrown out of the club for unacceptable behavior, a terrible chain of events is set in motion, AJ desperate to reclaim wife and son, a victim of his own excesses and a fixation on a wide-eyed dancer whose only interest is in his wallet. As AJ's transgressions pile up in contrast to his best intentions, pinballing over the wreckage of his past actions, Bassam focuses on April/Spring, alternately judging and lecturing while April cannot keep her eyes from the hundreds of dollars that will bring her dream that much closer. As the hours pass, a diverse cast divulges their secrets, the individual histories that have led to this fateful night on the Gulf Coast, the shattered dreams, the misspent promise of youth, lives sidetracked by necessity and bad choices, at the heart of it the slightly ranting of a fanatical Bassam, seduced by the imperfections of the flesh while embracing the distortions of his extremist education.
April otherwise engaged, a little girl awakens, alone and afraid, crying for her mother; a drunk, angry man notices, blundering through his own vague yearnings. And once more, through the minutiae of random struggles, a greater tragedy evolves. Certainly Dubus is a master of the unexpected confluence of events begun through the collision of human frailty and false pride, an impending cultural cataclysm that erases America's innocence. Based on fact, this novel's exploration of the seedy underbelly of modern culture is both intense and broad, Dubus once more shaking a distracted psyche and reminding us to pay attention. Luan Gaines/ 2008.
Having been connected to the judicial system (in a good way) for 30 some years, I found the characters' flawed thought processes were consistant and believable. I didn't think it was slow and I didn't want to miss a moment of the writing, as I sometimes do when authors describe scenery and Yaddah Yaddah Yaddah. If you are a student of human motivation and behavior you will like this book.
Some of the reviewers have commented on Dubus' writing being overblown, but I couldn't disagree more. As a matter of fact, I noticed that with the closing of each chapter the last sentence would be written in the most beautiful, descriptive manner. Not overblown at all. A great writer and an incredible read.
I think, unfortunately, this was a poorly conceived and executed novel by a writer of great talent. However tantalizing the initial premise -- the prospect of a stripper who brings her child to work and loses her daughter woven together with a potential terrorist in the house, an addled customer thrown out over his misplaced love for a dancer and a bouncer with both a conscience a taste for violence -- none of it ultimately comes together. The "connections" prove to be random. There is no plot device, no carefully constructed string of events, no philosophical point of view that ties the characters together. A chance meeting between a stripper and a terrorist on the night a guy gets thrown out of the strip club and picks up the stripper's kid is not the foundation for a novel, whatever the skill of the writer. Anyone of us might be in the room tomorrow with a guy or women who makes news for all the wrong reasons, but that wouldn't make our story worth telling.
The cardinal sin, however, is Dubus gave us very little reason to care about the characters. The portrayal of Bassam, the man bent on terror, is tedious and filled with cardboard ideological utterances. That may befit the character of those who spend their lives plotting how to exact revenge on their supposed Western oppressors, but that didn't make him in the least bit interesting. April, the stripper, demands very little in the way of empathy, and we're given far too little about her to form any kind of emotional connection. The inner monologues of A.J., the reluctant kidnapper, build some momentum, but in the end his actions are far too stupid and misguided to maintain much interest.
The reader waits in vain as he turns the final pages for a conclusion that brings satisfaction. The final message seems to be that life goes on. Okay, but I was left feeling no curiosity about what might happen to the characters who survived. It's a strangely weak novel that certainly doesn't sustain interst over its 500-plus pages. Dubus would have done well to cut the length in half. Best skipped in favor of his beautifully crafted previous novel.