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The Garden of Last Days [Hardcover]

Andre Dubus
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
RRP: 17.99
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Book Description

28 Aug 2008
One early September night in Florida, a young woman brings her daughter to work. April's usual babysitter, Jean, has had a panic attack that has landed her in hospital. April doesn't really know anyone else, so she decides it's best to have her three-year-old daughter close by, watching children's videos in the office, while she works. But April is a stripper at the Puma Club for Men. And tonight she has an unusual client, a foreigner both remote and too personal, and free with his money. Lots of it, all cash. His name is Bassam. Meanwhile, another man, AJ, has been thrown out of the club for holding hands with his favourite stripper, and he's drunk and angry and lonely.From these explosive elements comes a relentless, raw, searing, passionate page-turning narrative, a big-hearted and painful novel about sex and parenthood, honour and masculinity. Set in the seamy underside of American life at the moment before the world changed, it juxtaposes lust for domination with hunger for connection, sexual violence with family love. It seizes the reader by the throat with the same psychological tension, depth and realism that characterised Andre Dubus' bestselling "House of Sand and Fog" - and with an even greater sense of the dark and anguished places in the human heart.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: William Heinemann Ltd (28 Aug 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0434019208
  • ISBN-13: 978-0434019205
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.4 x 4.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,469,129 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

`An explosive narrative employs a Florida strip club as a tinderbox of tensions on the weekend before 9/11...Dubus shows a profound empathy as he gets inside the heads of a number of characters...A masterful job...Difficult to put down, impossible to forget.' -- Kirkus (starred review)

Book Description

The stunning new literary thriller from the author of the bestselling House of Sand and Fog. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAME TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Set on the west coast of Florida from Thursday, September 6, through Tuesday, September 11, 2001, the ironically entitled The Garden of Last Days focuses on the sleazy netherworld of the Puma Club for Men, a strip joint on the outskirts of Sarasota. Five characters share their stories during the time leading up to the catastrophe at the World Trade Center, and as their lives intersect and overlap with each other, they create a broad panorama of life's darkest side with all its personal challenges. As author Andre DuBus III individualizes the characters, they become a microcosm of hopes and dreams, mistakes and failures, and, in some rare cases, triumphs against insuperable odds.

April Connors, the mother of three-year-old Franny, strips at the Puma in order to save money so she can buy a house for herself and her daughter, refusing to resort to prostitution and keeping her head high as Spring, an exotic dancer. Her elderly landlady, Jean, a widow with heart trouble, who babysits for Franny, adores Franny and treats her like her own, but when she checks herself into the hospital, April has no childcare and has to take Franny to the Puma Club. Lonnie, a bouncer, rigidly enforces the "hands-off" policy of the club, sadistically enjoying the mayhem he wreaks if someone steps over the line. AJ Carey, a heavy equipment operator, arrives at the Puma depressed, after his wife gets a restraining order against him. Drawn to Marianne, one of the dancers, AJ is outraged when Marianne turns off, and he is ejected from the club.

The last character at the Puma, the "elephant in the room" of this novel, is Bassam al-Jizani, a young Islamist trained for a September 11 mission. Bassam, nave, is determined to find out as much about women as possible until the day of his mission arrives.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Garden of the Last Days 5 July 2010
By GCROMP
Format:Paperback
Couldn't put it down but at the same time did not really enjoy the emotions created by this explicit creation. Unlike any book I have read in the recent past but I fully recommend it for those who are not faint hearted.
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2.0 out of 5 stars garden of last days 11 May 2013
By arthurs
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Just could not get into it and I usually love his books do not recommend would not try another book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.2 out of 5 stars  139 reviews
99 of 116 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "A little luck like this felt like bait for bigger luck." 2 Jun 2008
By Luan Gaines - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
While House of Sand and Fog addressed the heartbreaking dilemma of a proud Iranian immigrant faced with the intractable demands of a young woman and a bureaucratic blunder with tragic consequences pre-9/11, The Garden of Last Days tumbles into a much darker landscape on the eve of America's loss of innocence. The internal drama is played out on the tawdry runway of a Florida Gulf Coast strip club, the Puma Club for Men, where April is forced to break her own strict rule, taking her three-year-old daughter, Franny, to work rather than miss an opportunity to salt away more money toward a future free of the decadent circumstances in which she now makes her living. April is a bit of an anomaly, with a well-thought out plan for escaping the downward spiral of such employment, most of the other dancers fortifying themselves with drugs and the occasional extra date with customers after the club closes. But April is thrown off the usual rhythm of her bifurcated life, the dayworld/nightworld of April/Spring when her landlady goes to the hospital unexpectedly with an anxiety attack.

Deeply troubled by this merging of two worlds, April has every reason to doubt the wisdom of her decision as the shift grinds on. Tina, who agrees to keep an eye on Franny while April dances is at best lackadaisical about Franny's care in a cramped office just off the women's dressing room, Tina easily distracted by the demands of her boss. Tiny Franny, in her pink pajamas, is by turns enthralled by her Disney movies and snacks, but needing constant reassurance that her mother will soon take her home. The following hours are filled with a heart-stopping chain of events portending disaster, the incessant beat of the DJ's selections as each stripper takes to the stage, the drunken shouts of customers paying for a show, the exchange of money for services, all under the guise of a good time. April is watched: by Louis, her lascivious boss; by Lonnie, a bouncer who views "Spring" as different from the others; by Bassam, a chain-smoking, intense young man from Saudi Arabia who walks straight into the embrace of evil, unable to resist the seduction of this foreign country's blatant disregard for modesty. On the cusp of a great personal sacrifice, Bassam covets April's attention in the private Champagne Room, willing to pay handsomely for his moral digression.

Fleshed out by the disaffection of a loud-mouthed customer, AJ, who is thrown out of the club for unacceptable behavior, a terrible chain of events is set in motion, AJ desperate to reclaim wife and son, a victim of his own excesses and a fixation on a wide-eyed dancer whose only interest is in his wallet. As AJ's transgressions pile up in contrast to his best intentions, pinballing over the wreckage of his past actions, Bassam focuses on April/Spring, alternately judging and lecturing while April cannot keep her eyes from the hundreds of dollars that will bring her dream that much closer. As the hours pass, a diverse cast divulges their secrets, the individual histories that have led to this fateful night on the Gulf Coast, the shattered dreams, the misspent promise of youth, lives sidetracked by necessity and bad choices, at the heart of it the slightly ranting of a fanatical Bassam, seduced by the imperfections of the flesh while embracing the distortions of his extremist education.

April otherwise engaged, a little girl awakens, alone and afraid, crying for her mother; a drunk, angry man notices, blundering through his own vague yearnings. And once more, through the minutiae of random struggles, a greater tragedy evolves. Certainly Dubus is a master of the unexpected confluence of events begun through the collision of human frailty and false pride, an impending cultural cataclysm that erases America's innocence. Based on fact, this novel's exploration of the seedy underbelly of modern culture is both intense and broad, Dubus once more shaking a distracted psyche and reminding us to pay attention. Luan Gaines/ 2008.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Flawed thinking, inevitable disasters 20 Mar 2010
By J. Zimmer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The beauty of this book was the writer's uncanny ability to share the insides of his characters' heads in a believable way. The people are so genuine and the results of their random collisions with each other are so predictable that the tension is in the inevitability of the outcome. You KNEW some characters were going to be trouble right from the start and it was excruciating not to be able to intervene, to watch the night unravel.
Having been connected to the judicial system (in a good way) for 30 some years, I found the characters' flawed thought processes were consistant and believable. I didn't think it was slow and I didn't want to miss a moment of the writing, as I sometimes do when authors describe scenery and Yaddah Yaddah Yaddah. If you are a student of human motivation and behavior you will like this book.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Sorrow That This Is MY Last Day... 5 Mar 2010
By ViAmber - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
...of reading this incredible novel. What a storyteller, Dubus is! I could not put the book down and read it basically straight through in 2 days. I cared about almost all of the characters, except Bassam. I felt that Dubus really did his research on some of the factors that led up to 9/11. The strip club subculture was fascinating and sounded very realistic. I really cared about April and Franny! AND I cared about AJ, bless his doofus heart. I kept hoping he'd get out of jail and lead a more productive and happy life.

Some of the reviewers have commented on Dubus' writing being overblown, but I couldn't disagree more. As a matter of fact, I noticed that with the closing of each chapter the last sentence would be written in the most beautiful, descriptive manner. Not overblown at all. A great writer and an incredible read.
28 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Expected more 14 July 2008
By Chris Jaronsky - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I bought this book solely based on Stephen King's review in EW, so needless to say, I was expecting a lot. Most of the book takes place over the course of one night at a strip club in Florida. It is essentially based on a bad choice made by April, the stripper, taking her child to work with her instead of staying home and missing a night of tips. It follows the characters as they are connected to April and her daughter and drags on endlessly over every last detail. I felt the book was overly lengthy and about 2/3 into it I skimmed the chapters about Bassam, the 9/11 terrorist. It just became too much background info and not enough story. I just kept plodding along expecting something else to happen...waiting for 9/11 and how all these characters I had invested 400 pages in would react to the tragedy and actually being a small part in the last days of one of the terrorists. I was, however, let down. When the book finally reached 9/11 it was utterly anti-climatic, it just wound down and ultimately ended with no major revelations or surprise, I suppose that was the point.

Shelly
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The long crawl to the finish line 11 July 2008
By B. Tracy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I too was excited to read this book after enjoying "House of Sand and Fog" and also reading Stephen King's review. It started off great, in my opinion, introducing the players, setting up a storyline, and setting the scene. However, after April's daughter disappears (which occurs about 1/3 of the way through), I felt it just went in circles. I was bored, I wasn't interested in any of the characters, and I felt like it was constant repetition. By the end, I was practically skimming, just wanting to get it over with.
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