Sunset Park by Paul Auster

It’s an unassuming wreck of an older house, on a nearly deserted street in Brooklyn, that four people in their late twenties take over for their home – squatters they become, out of necessity.  Lack of funds drives Bing, the owner of the Hospital for Broken Things, a shop for anachronistic machines; Ellen, a timid real estate agent who hasn’t a clue where she stands in life; Alice, a Midwestern girl with a dissertation to finish amid a waning relationship with her boyfriend; and Miles, an old friend of Bing’s who enters this unlikely home life as an exile from Florida.

Sunset Park begins with Miles’ story; he’s a drifter of many jobs who has settled in South Florida, doing what is called trashing out – cleaning out foreclosed homes in the area.  He falls in love with an underaged Cuban-American girl and is quickly scared out of town by goons hired by her older sister.  An invitation from Bing to join them in their illegal household is also an opportunity for Miles to reconnect with his New York based family – he hasn’t had contact with them in over seven years.

The storylines vary between the four, Miles’ father, who is an independent publisher facing his own crises, and Miles’ birth mother, who left his father when Miles was an infant.  Eventually the shock level rises as secrets are revealed, but there’s redemption of a sort for some of our folks here – and the eviction notices keep coming.

Paul Auster has been on the literary scene for years and this is my first excursion into his work.  I would say he is a writer’s writer.   You have to want to sink your teeth into it to enjoy this book.  Lots of passages have a stream-of-consciousness feel, and this writing style is not for everyone.  However, once I started, I quickly got wound up into the world of Miles & Company.  The characters are quite flawed but sympathetic – I really cared what happened to them all.  Sunset Park ended very abruptly for me.  But, good writing doesn’t promise a happy and pat ending.  Read the book for the prose and character development – and maybe take a look at other Paul Auster titles we have at the Greensboro Public Library.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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