Tuesday, December 28, 2010

SUNSET PARK by Paul Auster

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

Auster's latest book follows the lives of a number of eccentric characters linked together by the mysterious Miles Heller during the economic collapse of 2008.  Miles works as a trash-out worker in southern California where he sifts through the detritus of evicted families.  His saving grace is his teenaged girlfriend Pilar.  When Pilar's sister threatens to expose their illegal love affair, Miles must escape to Sunset Park in Brooklyn where he joins a group of unusual squatters in an abandoned house.  The squatters are a motley crew including an emotionally damaged real estate agent, a woman working on her PhD and an eccentric man who specializes in repairing the artifacts of a vanished world. Each of these individuals must come to terms with their past in order to create any kind of a future.

Auster is very gifted writer and comes up with truly imaginative characters and situations.  I love how he managed to bring together these different people into one cohesive story. Each individual is damaged in his/her own way and they are all using their time as squatters to regroup and figure out what directions their lives will take. The abandoned house becomes a kind of waiting room for the next chapter in their lives.  Miles is an especially poignant character and probably the most interesting of all of them. He has been running from his past for years and must now confront it.

Although I enjoyed this book, it felt too short. I wanted more.  I felt as if I was just getting into the characters when the book ended. Each individual only gets a short amount of focus in the story with the exception of Miles and possibly his father. I think Auster manages to capture the strangeness of 2008 and the effects of the economic downturn on individuals very well. I sometimes found myself puzzled by the inclusion of some of their characters and questioned their importance in the storyline.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended. This is a well-written book with excellent characters. However, I'm not sure that it is a book that will stay with you for a long time.  It is more of a book that captures a moment in time and how it affected a particular group of people.

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