Tony's Reviews > Sunset Park
by Paul Auster
by Paul Auster
Auster, Paul. SUNSET PARK. (2010). ****. Sunset Park is a lower-class neighborhood in Brooklyn that is rapidly going downhill. It is full of abandoned houses that remain unoccupied. Into one of these houses, the characters of this novel ultimately move in and become squatters. First we meet Miles Heller. Miles is a drop-out from college currently working in Florida as a trash-out employee for a realty firm. He has been wandering the country for over seven years now, working at a succession of blue-collar jobs – drifting aimlessly. He carrys a load of guilt and confusion: As a teenager, he had a step brother who was several years older than he. The two of them mostly got along, but with the usual bickering two brothers always have. One day as they were walking along a country road, the two got into a heated argument, and Miles pushed his brother violently so that he fell into the road. Just at that instant, a car driving too fast came around a curve and killed him. When the guilt became overwhelming as he grew older, he just decided to disappear and try and find a new life. He quit school and left his father and stepmother – not to see them for over seven years. Bing Nathan was a friend of Miles since their days in high school and believed him to be the best person he ever met. Bing is kind of aimless, too, and has opened a shop called The Hospital for Broken Things – although he makes most of his income by framing pictures. He was the driving force in squatting in the empty house. Bing manages to convince two girls, Ellen and Alice, to move in with him, too. There are four bedrooms, so room is not a problem. Since the two women can use the money they save by not paying rent, they are eager to do so. Ellen, in addition to having no money, needs the privacy of her room in order to complete her doctoral dissertation. When Miles comes back to New York – for a variety of reasons – he makes up the fourth member in the abandoned house. Auster explores the lives and motivations of these four characters and the father and step-mother of Miles in this very perceptive novel that brings the reader into their heads and hearts. Recommended.
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