Andre Dubus III's The House of Sand and Fog was probably THE saddest, most wrenching book we ever read. We were hoping his latest, The Garden of Last Days, would be similar in its delicious soul-killing-ness. But Janet Maslin doesn't think so! In her Books of the Times review, she notes that:
“The Garden of Last Days” explores the cultural chasm between Bassam’s
world and Spring’s. With a plot fueled by the certitude that something
terrible will happen, this narrative may mean to recall the devastating
forward motion of Russell Banks’s
“Continental Drift.” But Mr. Dubus shows none of Mr. Banks’s anguished
insight into such a clash of values and attitudes. Instead he often
treats this book as an occasion for easy irony, as in the way April has
left Franny to watch Disney videos. Thus the child can immerse herself
in “The Little Mermaid” despite the smoke, loud music, raucous men and
tawdry, real-life women surrounding her. Thus if Franny is to watch
“The Lion King” in these last days before the 9/11 attacks, April
insists that her daughter be shielded from the scary parts.
Maslin is disappointed that in this novel, Dubus's "forces of darkness are less subtle." Maybe Dubus wrote out all the baddies and doesn't have anything left to forward his sad muse. Kinda like Rivers Cuomo. But at least Dubus doesn't have a porn-stache. There are still some things to be grateful for.