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Intersecting Lives In 'The Garden Of Last Days'

Book Tour is a Web feature and podcast. Each week, we present leading authors of fiction and nonfiction as they read from and discuss their work.

The thoughts and motives of the Sept. 11 hijackers seem to be irresistible fodder to a certain type of novelist, including Andre Dubus III, who's best known for House of Sand and Fog. That novel was a National Book Award finalist and was later adapted into a 2003 Oscar-nominated film.

In the manner of his earlier book, The Garden of Last Days tracks complicated intertwining narratives that unspool with increasing emotional intensity. This time, the stories follow one of the hijackers, a dancer and a regular customer at the Florida strip club visited by the terrorists in the days before they committed their catastrophic crime. (It has been pointed out by several reviewers that the strip club angle seems to fascinate certain authors, including John Updike in his novel Terrorist.)

While Dubus' portrayal of the terrorist Bassam al-Jizani sometimes tends toward the ham-handed, he is at his best when he writes from the perspective of the hapless stripper, April, and the misguided regular who kidnaps her young daughter in a desperate attempt at self-redemption.

Dubus supported himself for many years as a carpenter and construction worker before finding success as a writer. He comes from a distinguished literary family. His father was a renowned short story writer and essayist, and his cousin is James Lee Burke, author of the popular Dave Robicheaux mystery series.

This reading of The Garden of Last Days took place in June 2008 at the Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, D.C.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Neda Ulaby reports on arts, entertainment, and cultural trends for NPR's Arts Desk.
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