Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Garden of Last Days

The Garden of Last DaysThe Garden of Last Days by Andre Dubus III
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Garden of Last Days offers the reader a glimpse into a facet of the events leading up to 9/11.  The twist is, it takes place in Florida.  This isn't something I enjoy reading about, but this story is so well done and features enough interesting characters, it's impossible to put down.  I forgot to eat and didn't bother sleeping until I finished this book.

You'll meet Franny, an adorable three-year-old whose mother April is a dancer at a strip club.  April is not the stereotypical coke-snorting dancer; she's saving her money to buy a house for herself and her daughter, and she conducts her life like two parallel paths:  one April the mother, one Spring the dancer.  One night, her babysitter (elderly neighbor and landlady Jean) is unable to sit for Franny, so April takes her with her to work.

You'll meet AJ, a guy dealing with a recent string of bad luck (mostly brought on by himself).  The kind of guy who's always in the wrong place at the wrong time, and makes bad decisions. He's a patron at the strip club and ends up getting tossed out with a broken wrist for manhandling one of the dancers.

You'll meet Lonnie, the best bouncer at the strip club.  He's dyslexic and has a crush on April/Spring.

Finally, you'll meet Bassam.  He's finished his training for 9/11 and is an enthusiastic member of jihad (not sure if that is the correct phrasing; my brain refuses to absorb much about those people).  He's also a customer at April's strip club.  He is, of course, the least favorite character in the story.  His tale is well told, however, and the author relates much of Bassam's philosophies and religion through his inner narrative.  Sickening and stomach-turning, but well done.

The story takes the reader through the last few days before Tuesday, September 11, 2001, and into that morning.

Clear your calendar, hold your calls, tell everyone you've got the flu.  This book is fascinating.

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