Written by on February 9, 2014

& Sons, by David Gilbert

I seem to be on a jag: novels about novelists. I was wowed by Meg Wolitzer’s The Wife, and before that, loved David Gilbert’s & Sons. Neither book will make you wish you had a novelist for a spouse or a parent, however.

A.N. Dyer is the fictional author of Ampersand, a book with some similarities to J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. One character, an actor who’s itching to play a role in a possible movie version of the book, describes the difference between the authors to one of Dyer’s sons:

In his excitement Eric balled his fists into exclamations of FUCK and YEAH. “It seems to me you have ‘Catcher in the Rye’ people and you have ‘Ampersand’ people, and I definitely, absolutely, one hundred percent fall in the ‘Ampersand’ camp…To me, Salinger is a stray dog you want to adopt, but A.N. Dyer is a different beast altogether.”

Yeah, a tick, Richard thought.

9780812993967_p0_v3_s260x420Having had limited contact with his two sons in recent years, Dyer, now aging and in poor health, summons them home. Richard, the eldest, lives on the West Coast, making a living as a substance abuse counselor (having learned from his own early misadventures as an addict) and occasional screenwriter. Jamie, the second son, makes documentaries on death (in one case the death of a former girlfriend) and other dark subjects. Dyer wants the older two brothers to get to know their much younger stepbrother Andy, the product of an affair that broke up their parents’ marriage. Richard wants to sell a screenplay; Jamie wants to get back to his macabre life’s work and his much younger girlfriend; Andy just wants to lose his virginity before he goes back to boarding school. Once he’s assembled the family, Dyer makes a shocking revelation to the two oldest sons that either explains his partiality to their stepbrother, or proves that, yes, he IS losing his marbles.

The characters are original, the humor is priceless, the father and sons story line tragic and yet completely believable. I’m watching for whatever David Gilbert writes next.

author photo: Tim Knox

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