David Gilbert presents a tale told by an unreliable narrator in “& Sons.”
The novel “& Sons” tells the story of an aging literary lion — one who gained status as a legend in an era when white males were the big game in publishing — and the other men in the family who don’t matter as much. His sons.
This book, by David Gilbert, is a delicious read in which very real pain is leavened with humor and the genuine insight each character ultimately employs to mature. It seems the only one of the tribe’s males incapable of seeing what a selfish ass he can be is the patriarch, A.N. Dyer. Andrew is his given name.
Dyer is approaching 80 and that man is never going to grow up. He has been celebrated since his mid-20s when he published “Ampersand,” a book that, in this fiction, has for decades given “The Catcher in the Rye” a run for the title of best prep school novel ever.
The only son that Andrew considers worthy is the one he sees as most like himself. Andy, only 17 and still living at home, came to the family late. Andy was the product of an affair and Andrew expected his wife Isobel to raise him. She walked out.
His older sons, Richard and Jamie, are both arriving at middle age having led problematic lives. They grew up in privilege on the upper East Side, but Richard became a hard-core addict while Jamie’s “career” has taken him on a world tour of voyeurism pointing his camera at scenes of carnage and despair but doing nothing with the footage.
As the novel opens, the two are preparing to come home, literally and metaphorically. Andrew has summoned them. Both arrive to discover Philip Topping in residence. The son of Andrew’s closest friend, Topping grew up on the fringes of the family as a Dyer wanna-be. He has moved in.
Topping, his feelings very much colored by envy and self-justification, is the novel’s unreliable narrator. But even if he is not entirely credible, he is believable in the essential telling of this tale of outrageous fortune.
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
“The Telling Room” by Michael Paterniti
This is a rare book where the author successfully merges his own story with the subject of what reads like a tall tale but isn’t. Or at least not entirely. Paterniti can be accused of some fabulist touches in recounting the drama surrounding an artisanal cheese that comes with a murder plot. Paterniti actually relocated his family to a small town in Spain to be closer to the cave where the cheese is aged and learn from its maker about the blood feud that came about when a childhood friend “stole” his business and ran off with the cheese. An incredible tale.
“It Happens in the Dark” by Carol O’Connell
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“On the Come Up” by Hannah Weyer
Indie filmmaker Weyer sets her first novel in Far Rockaway and tells the story of AnnMarie Walker, who wants more in life but gets pregnant at 14. Still, she’s a determined girl and sneaks away to audition for an indie film. She was born for the role of a high school girl in a neighborhood just like her own. The result of getting the part is that her life is split between the demands of being a single mother with a violent boyfriend and having the lead in a movie that makes it to Sundance. The story is fashioned on Anna Simpson, a teenager from Queens who starred in the 2000 movie “Our Song.”