Miles Heller finds himself in a tough spot with an underage girl in Florida, and though it’s not quite the tough spot one immediately thinks of, it’s tough enough for him to flee home to New York, to live as a squatter in a repossessed house in Brooklyn with an old friend and two women.
This set-up might have been enough for an interesting story. Miles, suffering from the trauma of accidentally killing his step-brother nearly a decade earlier, has willfully estranged himself from both his parents and step-parents for seven years. His emotional disconnection is abundantly apparent, but rather than caring about Miles, I sort of loathed him.
His roommates – among them the boisterous Bing, who runs a “Hospital for Broken Things” where people can bring items to be fixed that technology has outdated; Alice, who is finishing her dissertation on the classic film, The Best Years of Our Lives (and whose thoughts on this movie turn out to be the most interesting five pages of the book); and Ellen, a meek, confused artist whose major breakthrough comes by filling sketchbooks with sexually explicit images – lend landscape to this story, but not depth.
To be fair, I’m not familiar with much of Auster’s work, though I did enjoy The Brooklyn Follies a few years ago, but when I finished this book, I didn’t feel anything, and that disappointed me. The most compelling aspect of the plot was the circumstances of four people living in a rent-free house in New York City, but the characters that could have held up that storyline simply never came through for me.
Auster is a talented writer, but I would recommend Sunset Park only to his fans.
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This book was published by Henry Holt and Company in November 2010. If you’d like to read a good review that disagrees with mine (and includes an excerpt from the book), do so here. For more information about the author and his other work, visit this unofficial website. To purchase this book from an independent bookstore and support me as an IndieBound affiliate, click here. As always, happy reading.
FTC Disclosure: This review was based on a copy of the book that I received from the publisher.