Townie: A Memoir
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Townie: A Memoir

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  4,374 ratings  ·  848 reviews
After their parents divorced in the 1970s, Andre Dubus
III and his three siblings grew up with their overworked
mother in a depressed Massachusetts mill town saturated
with drugs and everyday violence. Nearby, his father, an
eminent author, taught on a college campus and took the
kids out on Sundays. The clash between town and gown,
between the hard drinking, drugging, and fight...more
ebook, 400 pages
Published February 23rd 2011 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2011)
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Barbara
The major focus of this soul-baring memoir of Andre Dubus III is in Haverhill, Massachusetts, a city bordering New Hampshire, in northeastern Massachusetts. It was a former mill town and industrial city, which in the 19th and early half of the 20th century was known as the “Queen Slipper City” because of its tanneries and shoe manufacturing. They boasted that 1/10 of the shoes made in the US were made there. It is located on the Merrimack River. I lived there for a few years and found it to be a...more
Bonnie
I have never read any of Dubus' books, because back when he was popular I Didn't Do Tragic. His memoir got good buzz, though, so I decided to give it a try. Let's just say that I don't plan to read any of his fictional books, ever.

I feel bad for Dubus. He got a raw deal, with a father who couldn’t be bothered to spend time with his children and a mom who was too busy and exhausted to pay adequate attention to them. With the exception of his younger sister, Dubus' siblings were adrift and had pro...more
Chrissie
This is a rough book. It is about violence in all its forms, except war and genocide. Violence on a personal level. If swear words and rape and drugs are going to put you off, well then maybe this isn't a book for you. But read on. It is also about a dysfunctional family. I don't like dysfunctional family stories, or that is what I thought! But hey there is an exception to every rule. Maybe I so very much liked it because it is no story; it is autobiographical! I also know that I liked it becaus...more
Neil White
Dubus's novels are difficult to read without getting worked up into a frenzy that involves symptoms not unlike severe stress or paranoia. At least for me, anyway. Shortness of breath, increased heart rate, even sweats - these things happen. His memoir does not include the same scenes of riveting tension and personal anguish that populate his other works, but I found myself still getting worked up reading this - especially the early scenes of his torment as a young child.

A skinny kid, raised by a...more
Elge
I totally agree with Dwight Garner of the New York Times when he writes of this book, "Townie is a better, harder book than anything (Dubus III) has yet writer; it pays off on every bet that's been placed on him. A sleek muscle car of a memoir."

The core theme of the memoir is men's, particularly his, relationship to violence. As a kid he was a victim of it. This part of the book was hard to read and I almost bailed out on the book because I wanted him to stop being a victim and stand up for hims...more
Karen
It was like getting a tooth drilled or being hit over the head by the same damn bat. I'll pass on this one- thank you very much.

The same scenes repeated endlessly. Hopelessness, cruelty, fear and abandonment abound in this book. It's a bleak tale and a place I choose not to visit any longer than reading the 67 pages I spent there.

I've believed Dubus to be brilliant based on "House of Sand and Fog" but the writing in this book is meandering, inconclusive and confusing. Often I would read a sente...more
Barbara A
Wow. It's eight o' clock on the last night of June. The grand children are in bed, and this is when I usually open up my book and read for the evening. The problem is that I finished "Townie" last night, and now I am achingly homesick for Haverhill.

This is rather ridiculous, since (1) I have never been to Haverhill and (2) the town and the life that Dubus portrays, at great length and with much repetition, are as gritty, as violent, as unappealing as anyplace that one might imagine. This was hel...more
Dean
I got two thirds of the way through this book and I surrended. If this was fiction, I would say that the main character is a damaged and flawed person with serious anger issues. Sadly, it is a biography and I just cannot care about a man who in his mid twenties needs to run around a town looking to beat up people for what he thinks are insults. Or looking for insults so he can get into a fight. No signs of redemption, although, since he wrote some good books later on one can assume he figures ou...more
Karen
Like most of my books, I read this on my ipad and kindle. At one point when I was about to quit, I clicked to find I was 40% through the book. Do editors still exist? Who would allow the first 40% of a book to be little more than a series of school yard brawls, replete with description of injuries, names of malefactors, and explanation of grudges with thin strips of family life laid between. The idea of a memoir is not only to render a life but also to understand it. Although after 40%, the book...more
Keri
This was a little difficult reading for me...it hit close to home. Single mother raising 4 kids in a violent neighborhood. Dubus takes us through his upbringing and what has to be done to survive. I did get a little sick of all the violence at one point and wondered when he was going to turn it all around. He gets there, it just takes a while. Amazing characterizations, gritty read. He doesn't pull any punches when remembering all the details of his life. I found myself relating to Dubus in so m...more
Janessa
I typically review children's picture books and middle grade/young adult fiction on Thursdays, but I have to make an exception today. I recently finished reading TOWNIE, an amazing memoir by the writer Andre Dubus III, and it is one of those rare and precious books that touch the soul and leave a lasting impression. I'm still sorting through my reading experience, but these are the words that come to mind: courageous, honest, transformative, redemptive.

In the book Dubus tells of his childhood in...more
Ed
Aug 13, 2011 Ed rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: literary working class fiction
Recommended to Ed by: my wife saw it reviewed somewhere
Back in 1984, I reviewed Andre Dubus's fine novella We Don't Live Here Anymore for the Roanoke Times. It was a non-paying gig I did for the sheer joy I took in reading fiction like Mr. Dubus's. Now all these years later, I read the memoir written by his son, Andre Dubus III.

Andre is about my age. We grew up with the same music and pop culture. That's one reason why I like his Townie. Rambling, detailed, and gritty, his life story is well worth reading. Andre was a boxer, and he often got into s...more
Jessica Keener
One of the best memoirs I've read. I loved it for the forgiveness he came to, for the honesty he brought to the issue of fighting and violence and the impulse to fight and the transformation that happened to him as he faced the emptiness of violence and the shame of it. I loved how he addressed violence and really parsed it out for all the things that it signifies for people---the glorification of it, the defense of it, the vulnerability behind it, the mask of it. That's just some of what I love...more
Tiffany
I grew up in Haverhill, Mass, and lied about being from elsewhere for most of my life. It was a rough town in rough years.

Mr. Dubus perfectly evoked the violence and hardscrabble existence of living there. He honored the New England tradition of providing real estate as a character and moreover he did justice to Haverhill by making her as worthy a character as Miss Havisham: formerly beautiful now past her prime, a wreck but one deserving of pity.

How interesting that he called himself a "Townie...more
Thomas Pluck
An excellent memoir that hit painfully close to home for me. Andre Dubus explains the pain of divorce for a child and the fearfulness that settles in after the shake up, and how it makes a young boy an easy target for bullies. He goes on to show with artful cogency how this fear turns to armor and muscle, as he heads toward a Golden Gloves match in his early twenties, and pounds the snot out of every bully and wifebeater he sees. This would be a glorification if he didn't delve further, and dig...more
Ruth Seeley
I'm not the world's biggest fan of Andre Dubus III. I struggled with The House of Sand and Fog (although it was made into a fantastic movie, one of the few instances when I've preferred the movie to the book - The Kite Runner was the other one). And I have no memory whatsoever of The Garden of Last Days, although I remember liking it better than Sand and Fog.

Initially I found this memoir of Dubus' childhood and youth a bit of a struggle. But I persevered, and I'm very glad I did. I wouldn't agre...more
Mary Rowen
The memoir Townie by Andre Dubus III is a striking and worthwhile read for so many reasons. It’s always interesting to learn how a bestselling author got his start, but I’d always assumed that Dubus—best known for his dark and gripping novel House of Sand and Fog—had it a bit easier than most. After all, he’s the son of one of America’s greatest short story writers (the late Andre Dubus II).

But Townie makes it clear that this wasn’t the case for the younger Dubus. It turns out that he grew up in...more
Myfanwy
After she finished reading Andre Dubus III's new memoir Townie one of my friends called me and asked, "Is this book as good as I think it is or is it just that I grew up around all of these places he writes about?" I told her that while place is certainly important in the book, the book is exactly as good as she thinks it is. And it is.

And so what of this place where my friend, and Dubus, and I now live? This place is the north shore of Massachusetts, once known for its down-in-the-mouth mill an...more
Judith
I have enjoyed the short stories of Andre Dubus (the father), so when I learned that his son had written a memoir, I was interested in checking it out. The NYT gave it a favorable review, and somewhere along the line I remembered that he was also the author of "House of Sand and Fog", which I also liked very much. So I was surprised and disappointed when halfway through the book, I completely lost interest in it and couldn't read another page.

He relates his family's story: his parents were very...more
Karen
This book was simply amazing. Maybe I liked it so much because I grew up in the 60's and 70's in Massachusetts near an old mill town similiar to Haverhill. Maybe because I loved The House of Sand and Fog & The Garden of Last Days. Not sure but it was a gripping read. I don't usually read Memoirs with the exception of Life by Keith Richards, but I was hooked from page one in Townie. What a tough life Andre had as a boy growing up. The fact that he became a wonderful author is truly amazing! I...more
Richard Wise
Searingly honest coming of age story.

Though it relies on a somewhat shopworn theme; weak skinny 90 pound weakling dreams of becoming super hero, buys weights, works out, gets strong then with a true honesty escapes the shopworn conclusion by simply admitting that he came something of a bully himself.

Abandoned by his father, raised by a single mother, Dubus gives you a real taste and smell of the gritty realities of growing up suburban poor in an America mill town in the 1970s.

On to The House o...more
Merilee
First book on my new Kindle.

I finished it this morning, and much as I liked his House of Sand and Fog, I would not recommend this memoir. It's endlessly repetitive about his getting into fights as a young teen and even a young man, trying to prove that he's not a wimp. He lifts weights and then he beats up some more people who he thinks are either after him or trying to take advantage of some woman. The bits about his father were somewhat interesting, but I found that mainly this book was much a...more
Alecia
Memoirs are generally not my "thing", but I loved the House of Sand and Fog and Townie was also highly recommended to me. This memoir of a hardscrabble, neglect-filled childhood is not that different from others I have read in the same vein. Only the details are changed. I did not find Dubus's writing in this as flowing as his fiction. The book is very heavily weighted on his relationship with his namesake/father Andre Dubus II. His father left his mother and four children to go off with another...more
CC
Childhoods are tricky. No matter how charmed or ill-fated, it seems they are more often something to be survived rather than reflected on with joy. Such is the case with this rage-filled memoir by Andre Dubus III (author of House of Sand and Fog). His father, short-story author and college professor Andre II, leaves his wife and four kids living in poverty in a Mass. mill town while he enjoys the relative peace and intellectual bounty of campus life at nearby Bradford college.

Andre's father isn...more
Gail Cooke

The world has known may great writers and standing tall among them are Andre Dubus III (House of Sand and Fog) and his father, Andre Dubus II. This searing first-person memoir is not only a testament to redemption but also reveals a great deal about the creative processes of both father and son.

Seldom has a memorist been so unsparing in writing about his regrets as Dubus who with TOWNIE often focuses on the violence that was once so much a part of his life. When his parents divorced in the 197...more
Shauna
Sep 22, 2011 Shauna rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Townies everywhere, Massholes
I downloaded this as an e-book exclusively because I used to live on the North Shore and worked in Haverhill, MA, as a Mental Health Counselor and I was curious about the roots of what is now a rusty, lonely and crumbling community struggling to stay afloat. Turns out my connection to the town in "Townie" was the least compelling part of the tale. Dubus is a straight-up contradiction, a person I simply could not characterize in any way that makes sense, and in fact I think that's the only possib...more
John McNeilly
I know the difficulty of a father suddenly abandoning a household. The loss of the male figure, so associated with protection and security, the resulting personal guilt and confusion, and the wreckage left for surviving family members to pick through, can have a devastating long-term impact.

"Townie" was therefore an inevitable book for me to devour. And I did.

Andre Dubus III details his personal journey from child to man to pick up the shattered pieces of his famous writer father's abandonment....more
Newengland
Remember the TV show, BATMAN? All the fistfights? How your screen blossomed with words like BIFF! POW! CRA-A-ACK! SPLAT! and so forth? Well roll out the soundtrack and play it as you read Andre Dubus III's TOWNIE. It's one street fight after another (peppered with a few boxing matches for variety, I suppose).

Call me a Pip, but I had Great Expectations for this book. I expected a literary memoir of a kid who cut his teeth on the art of writing with a well-known, published dad. I expected allusio...more
Brenda Pike
I was particularly excited about this book because I went to school at Bradford (decades after Andrew Dubus) and I interned with Andre Dubus's publisher. Lots of other little intersections made me interested in their lives, not just their fiction. However, this book wasn't what I was looking for. In fact, it makes me look at Andre Dubus III completely differently.

The focus for most of the book is on his horrible childhood and how weightlifting and fighting (street fighting, not boxing) gave him...more
Tim
This book was 187 pages too long. A tormented tale of Dubus' childhood leading to reconciliation with his father, Dubus seems almost hyper in his recounting of the anger he felt as an abandoned (par pere) child in Haverhill. The memoir is filled with fights, vengeance, drugs, booze, and unhappiness. The reader begs for the redemption moments in which the author comes to terms with his manhood and accepts his talent as a writer. Sadly, the redemption is too little, too late. As much as I admired...more
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"Townie: A Memior" to become movie! 5 66 Dec 24, 2013 11:14AM  
South Shore Readers: Discussion: Townie 31 31 Oct 08, 2012 04:47AM  
Live Video Chat with Andre Dubus III 50 58 Sep 01, 2012 02:48AM  
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Andre Dubus III is the author of The Garden of Last Days, House of Sand and Fog (a #1 New York Times bestseller, Oprah’s Book Club pick, and finalist for the National Book Award) and Townie, winner of an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature. His writing has received many honors, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Magazine Award, and two Pushcart Prizes. He lives with...more
More about Andre Dubus III...
House of Sand and Fog The Garden of Last Days Dirty Love Bluesman The Cage Keeper and Other Stories

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“And I felt more like me than I ever had, as if the years I'd lived so far had formed layers of skin and muscle over myself that others saw as me when the real one had been underneath all along, and I knew writing- even writing badly- had peeled away those layers, and I knew then that if I wanted to stay awake and alive, if I wanted to stay me, I would have to keep writing.” 10 likes
“...joy was something she willed herself to show us, something she raised from deep inside herself as a promise for what could be. Now her life seemed to have opened up into it as if it had been waiting for her. (215)” 3 likes
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