Commentary
5:00 am
Mon July 29, 2013

Book Review: & Sons

David Gilbert’s novel & Sons is about a somewhat reclusive author who has written a book that has captured the imaginations of readers through the decades, much like J.D. Salinger’s Catcher In The Rye.

This fictional author is A.N. Dyer. Known to his family and friends as Andrew, he able to "hide" in plain sight on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

After the death of his life-long friend, Charlie Topping, Dyer faces his own mortality and summons home his three sons. But the story is told through the viewpoint of another son: Charlie's youngest, Phillip Topping. The families have grown up side-by-side, and in this week after Charlie's funeral, Phillip finds himself where he’s always wanted to be-- living with the Dyers, bearing witness to this odd family reunion.

David Gilbert
David Gilbert
Credit npr.org

Most of the world assumes that A.N. Dyer reflects the great father figure portrayed through his own writing. But Andrew Dyer has a strained relationship with his three sons, and his remote parenting causes resentment and regret. To face his mortality, Dyer obsesses on his immortality, as though the future life of his Pulitzer Prize-winning work is not enough, even though it’s studied, memorized and perpetuated for decades in every English class across the country.

& Sons is not a quick read. Instead, Gilbert's sentences promote thoughtful pauses and careful re-reading of paragraphs. And through the incorporation of his character's brilliant, award-winning work, Gilbert creates books within a book, with layer upon layer of fantastic writing.

& Sons invites us to ask ourselves if our impressions would change if we knew our fathers as teenagers. It is the story of fathers and sons, the assumptions between them, and the truths that ultimately surface.