I was wandering the aisles at SIBA a couple weeks ago in Tampa when this finished book caught my eye because of the author’s name. This was the only copy. The publisher was not ready to let it go, yet. But they told me to come back at the end of the conference and I could have it. And I did. The rest is history!
Pay attention folks. Most of this new novel by Andre Dubus III takes place in and around Arcadia, Florida. One chapter is actually set in our Punta Gorda. Toward the end you find yourself in St. Pete. So even though the novel begins in a small coastal town in New England, prepare yourselves to enter the backroads of Southern Florida and the quaint, atmospheric town of Arcadia. Prepare to delve into the world of antiques and get yourselves ready to feel the sweat run down your neck as the heat of the Florida sunshine comes home to roost.
Most of you already know I live in this area. Copperfish Books is located in downtown Punta Gorda. Arcadia is just a hop, skip and jump up the road. I can’t remember any modern novel being set in this area. I found my heart thumping in my chest as I read more and more. And it got better and better.
I am not going to lie to you about the contents being light. They are anything but. So, what’s it about? Forty years ago Daniel Ahearn was incarcerated for a horrific act of violence that left him a widower and his three-year-old daughter fatherless. Susan is in her forties now and still suffers from that awful night of which she does not remember even though she was actually witness to it all.
This brilliant novel goes back and forth in time and is told in the voices of the three main characters to allow you a front row seat to then and now.
Daniel Ahearn worked as the “voice” on the midway in a seasonally tourist town on the coast in Massachusetts. Linda became attracted to him as a young teen. They became inseparable and then Linda became pregnant and they married. Linda gave birth to a baby girl the spitting imagine of herself. Daniel was so proud. And love abounded, until it became an ugly beast. Daniel became what he later referred to as “Danny” who was a violent and unpredictable other part of himself whom he could not control. As Danny became more and more jealous of Linda, their lives began roiling out of control until one fateful night when Linda snapped and told Daniel she was going to leave him. And he snapped right back stabbing her in the kitchen of their tiny cottage as their 3-year-old daughter Susan watched it all.
This brilliant novel mostly set in our backyard begins forty years after Daniel killed his wife and his daughter was taken from him. Daniel spent eighteen years in jail before being allowed out for good behavior. So what has he been doing for all this time? And who has he become? All this and so much more.
Susan has been raised by her maternal grandmother, Lois, who has become a bitter old woman at the age of 82 who is still looking for vengeance. Lois took Susan and left New England all those years ago. Susan has grown up in the small town of Arcadia. Lois owns and runs an antique shop in the small town. Susan grew apart from her grandmother years ago. Yet, suddenly, she decides to “take a break” from her husband, Bobby, and go live with Lois for a time while she is supposed to be working on a book she’s writing.
Susan’s life has been filled with throw away relationships. She can’t commit. Even her marriage is not certain. She’s sexually promiscuous and that is putting it mildly. It’s one of the things that’s come of feeling loveless.
Meanwhile, Daniel is in the late stages of prostate cancer and has decided it’s finally time to find Susan. This is it.
Susan feels drawn to meet her father. But there is fear and anger keeping her at bay. However, when he suddenly appears, she is faced with the reality. This, at the end of the novel. The tension is so high and thick by then that we can’t be sure another crime may be committed.
Andre Dubus is a master storyteller who delves into the emotions of his characters to the Nth degree. Daniel is not a character to be sympathized with. However, you just might find yourself feeling sorry for this terminally ill ex-con. Maybe.
The slow burn throughout the story becomes a scorching runaway fireball toward the end of the novel. You just can’t miss it!
We have been lucky enough to book Andre Dubus III. He will appear at Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, Florida at six in the evening, Wednesday, January 23. RSVP at 941-205-2560. You can purchase your copy of GONE SO LONG online on our website or in the store. If you click on our name under our logo, it will take you straight to the book.
This event is going to be important. A novel set in Arcadia, Punta Gorda, and St. Petersburg is a case for celebration. We have a lot of questions to ask Mr. Dubus. And we can’t wait to meet him and hear him discuss his amazing book!