& Sons.

Author:Gilbert, David
Position:Book review

By David Gilbert

David Gilbert is the author of the story collection Remote Feed (1998) and the novel The Normals (2005). He lives in New York with his family.


THE STORY: A. N. Dyer became a Pulitzer Prize--winning sensation at age 28 with Ampersand, a novel about his New England prep school and adolescent angst (think J. D. Salinger). But now, a frail 79 and notoriously reclusive, Dyer wishes that he'd never written a single word. The novel opens at the high-society, Upper East Side funeral of Dyer's childhood friend Charles Topping. As Dyer delivers the eulogy, he ponders his isolated life, the novel that testifies to it, and his own mortality--and reaches out to his three sons. Thus begins a tumultuous week, as witnessed by Charles's son, Philip, an unreliable narrator who has spent 50 years living in the shadow of the Dyer family. As Philip pans back and forth in time, between events in Ampersand and their antecedents, we (the readers) start to question just how much of Philip's story is real, and how much is a figment of his possibly vindictive imagination.

Random House. 448 pages. $27. ISBN: 9780812993967

Vanity Fair *****

"By the end of this time-bending, poignantly twisted family saga, the only truth that endures is that the reader can't be sure whether any of it is true. This narrative complexity, however, only intensifies the draw of Gilbert's finely wrought prose, which teems with elaborate word plays and tests the reader's perceptiveness at every turn." LAUREN CHRISTENSEN

Washington Post *****

"[S]ix months from now, Gilbert's should be among the half-dozen or so names cited by critics and serious readers when they're asked who produced 2013's most dazzlingly smart, fully realized works of fiction. What's old-school audacious about & Sons ... is the way he presents this perfectly legitimate bid for Great American Novel consideration: by demythologizing those swaggering, self-assured figures to whom we've accorded Great American Novelist status." JEFF TURRENTINE

Los Angeles Times ****

"Gilbert has great narrative gifts and a wonderful eye for the madness of families and the madness of writers. In the end, & Sons is a novel that creates an imaginary author who is so real and flawed that the reader feels he understands American literature itself a little better after reading his story." HECTOR TOBAR

Minneapolis Star Tribune ****

"How much to trust a novel like this, so concerned with novelistic fraudulence...

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