Sunset Park

Holt. Nov. 2010. c.320p. ISBN 978-0-8050-9286-8. $25. F
Miles Heller is an anomaly, a 28-year-old college dropout who has pared his life down to bare essentials, eschewing the ostentatious trappings of his generation and splurging only on books. Miles earns a living "trashing out" repossessed homes in south Florida, snapping disturbing photos of the detritus left behind by the newly homeless. When he falls for Pilar Sanchez, a precocious 17-year-old, Miles realizes that his day-to-day existence of few desires or needs is over. Anxious for Pilar to be of legal age to marry, he returns home to New York hoping to repair the seven-year rift with his family caused by the burden of guilt he has carried since an accident that killed his stepbrother. Miles begins to reinvent himself, squatting in an abandoned house in Brooklyn with a crew of intriguing characters: Alice, a doctoral candidate whose work at PEN frustrates her; Ellen, a lonely artist; and Bing, a brooding presence whose mood swings presage the incident that may ruin their future plans.
VERDICT The author deftly balances minute details that evoke New York City, post-financial meltdown, with marvelously drawn characters bruised but unbowed by life's vicissitudes; think Richard Russo or Anne Tyler. Auster has an impressive array of literary nominations to his credit (e.g., PEN/Faulkner, IMPAC Dublin, and Edgar), but this should be the novel that brings him a broader readership. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/10.]
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