The morning after Andre Dubus III's sister tells the family that her husband has hit her - so hard she thought he'd broken her eardrum - Dubus's father sits down and writes an entire short story in one sitting about a young wife whose drunk husband beats her. The story is so beautiful, Dubus cannot shake his sense of simultaneous pride and shame - pride that his father had created something so elegant and powerful so effortlessly, and shame at the way he'd stolen his sister's painful experience for his own art.
"How could art truly help people?" Dubus asks. "Did it feed them? Clothe them? Keep them warm in the winter? Did it put a gun in their hands to fend off their oppressors?"
This is the paradox at the heart of Dubus's memoir, which recounts the lives of these two fine writers, their strained relationship, and their writings.
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