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Paul Auster 

Sunset Park (Henry Holt and Co.)

In many ways, Sunset Park is classic Auster: self-negating male protagonist, plot elements hinging on chance, New York and failure as a mode of operation. However, unlike previous works, this book forgoes surreal qualities in favour of a relatively (for Auster) straight-forward story about the need for human connection, love in all its manifestations and art. Told with revolving narrators and shifting timelines, Sunset Park principally concerns the exile and attempted redemption of Miles Heller, a young man crippled with monumental guilt. Set against the backdrop of the 2008 financial crisis, Heller’s self-imposed exile in Florida is radically shaken by his chance encounter with 17-year-old Pilar Sanchez. Naturally, his happiness is temporary: He is forced out of state by Pilar’s sister and begins the six-month countdown until she reaches the age of consent. Heller ends up squatting in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, with three other drifters who search for meaning in their crumbling lives. As time runs out on their living arrangement, their hands are forced with varying results. The book ends somewhat ambiguously but, ultimately, resolution is not the answer to this story: Sunset Park is, finally, about “the strangeness of being alive.”

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Vol 28, No 2
October 15, 2020

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