Summary and book reviews of Sunset Park by Paul Auster

Sunset Park

A Novel

by Paul Auster

Sunset Park
  • Critics' Opinion:

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  • First Published:
    Nov 2010, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2011, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Beverly Melven

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About this Book

Book Summary

Luminous, passionate, expansive, an emotional tour de force, Sunset Park follows the hopes and fears of a cast of unforgettable characters brought together by the mysterious Miles Heller during the dark months of the 2008 economic collapse.

Luminous, passionate, expansive, an emotional tour de force Sunset Park follows the hopes and fears of a cast of unforgettable characters brought together by the mysterious Miles Heller during the dark months of the 2008 economic collapse.

An enigmatic young man employed as a trash-out worker in southern Florida obsessively photographing thousands of abandoned objects left behind by the evicted families.

A group of young people squatting in an apartment in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

The Hospital for Broken Things, which specializes in repairing the artifacts of a vanished world.

William Wyler's 1946 classic The Best Years of Our Lives.

A celebrated actress preparing to return to Broadway.

An independent publisher desperately trying to save his business and his marriage.

These are just some of the elements Auster magically weaves together in this immensely moving novel about contemporary America and its ghosts. Sunset Park is a surprising departure that confirms Paul Auster as one of our greatest living writers.

Watch the video clip below to hear Paul Auster read from Sunset Park:



1

For almost a year now, he has been taking photographs of abandoned things. There are at least two jobs every day, sometimes as many as six or seven, and each time he and his cohorts enter another house, they are confronted by the things, the innumerable cast-off things left behind by the departed families. The absent people have all fled in haste, in shame, in confusion, and it is certain that wherever they are living now (if they have found a place to live and are not camped out in the streets) their new dwellings are smaller than the houses they have lost. Each house is a story of failure - of bankruptcy and default, of debt and foreclosure - and he has taken it upon himself to document the last, lingering traces of those scattered lives in order to prove that the vanished families were once here, that the ghosts of people he will never see and never know are still present in the discarded ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. What is the meaning of baseball to each of the three generations of Heller men, especially in terms of luck and chance?


  2. Morris ponders his own father Alvin's wounded eye from a baseball, thinking that it is no different than a war wound because "part of his life had been shot down." Do you agree?


  3. The 1946 movie The Best Years of Our Lives figures prominently in the novel. How are the horrors of World War II linked to the struggles of the characters in Sunset Park? Do they speak to a fundamental contradiction to the idea of the American dream?


  4. Do you agree with Alice's idea in her thesis that after the devastating effects of war, families can never go back to the way they were?


  5. Why does Alice believe that Miles is an old ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Paul Auster is one of those writers who is always multitasking. His stories are never about just one thing, and you can never be sure what's going on behind the scenes until you turn the last page. This is why I hate him, not to mention envy him. And also why I love him... The point here, as with every Auster novel I've read, is that the story of our lives is not the same thing as life itself. The story is just how we make sense of it all.   (Reviewed by Beverly Melven).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

[A] gratifying departure from the postmodern trickery he's known for, one full of crisp turns of phrase and keen insights.

Booklist

Starred Review. In a time of daunting crises and change, Auster reminds us of lasting things, of love, art, and 'the miraculous strangeness of being alive.'

Library Journal

Starred Review. 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.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Sure to please Auster fans and likely to attract new readers as well.

Reader Reviews

Edwin

Compelling
Like many of his previous books, this is about people who have lost their way and are trying to get their lives back on track. Sunset park doesn't deliver any large departures or surprises which makes it all the more probable. And this 'restrain' of ...   Read More

Cheryl Winter

All over the place
I had such a hard time following where this story was going. I kept waiting for the story to tie together. Never happened and the book ended. I found nothing interesting about this book.

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Beyond the Book

The Best Years of Our Lives

Alice Bergstrom, one of the characters in Sunset Park, is writing her dissertation on the film The Best Years of Our Lives. Almost everyone in the book has either seen it already or watches it with her so she can add their reactions to her observations. Auster draws many parallels between the story in the film and the story of his contemporary characters.

The film follows the lives of three WWII veterans who meet on their way home from the war. They become friends, and we watch them and their families as they try to return to their regular lives. Each comes home with different wounds - some physical, some emotional - and each has difficulty adjusting. Jobs are lost, marriages dissolve, but there is hope.

In his review of the ...

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