Synopses & Reviews
Who is A. N. Dyer? And Sons
is a literary masterwork for readers of The Art of Fielding, The Emperor’s Children,
and Wonder Boys
— the panoramic, deeply affecting story of an iconic novelist, two interconnected families, and the heartbreaking truths that fiction can hide.
The funeral of Charles Henry Topping on Manhattan’s Upper East Side would have been a minor affair (his two-hundred-word obit in The New York Times notwithstanding) but for the presence of one particular mourner: the notoriously reclusive author A. N. Dyer, whose novel Ampersand stands as a classic of American teenage angst. But as Andrew Newbold Dyer delivers the eulogy for his oldest friend, he suffers a breakdown over the life he’s led and the people he’s hurt and the novel that will forever endure as his legacy. He must gather his three sons for the first time in many years — before it’s too late.
So begins a wild, transformative, heartbreaking week, as witnessed by Philip Topping, who, like his late father, finds himself caught up in the swirl of the Dyer family. First there’s son Richard, a struggling screenwriter and father, returning from self-imposed exile in California. In the middle lingers Jamie, settled in Brooklyn after his twenty-year mission of making documentaries about human suffering. And last is Andy, the half brother whose mysterious birth tore the Dyers apart seventeen years ago, now in New York on spring break, determined to lose his virginity before returning to the prestigious New England boarding school that inspired Ampersand. But only when the real purpose of this reunion comes to light do these sons realize just how much is at stake, not only for their father but for themselves and three generations of their family.
In this daring feat of fiction, David Gilbert establishes himself as one of our most original, entertaining, and insightful authors. And Sons is that rarest of treasures: a startlingly imaginative novel about families and how they define us, and the choices we make when faced with our own mortality.
“David Gilbert’s And Sons is that novel you’ve been waiting for without knowing you were waiting. Big, brilliant, and terrifically funny, it’s a moving story about fathers and sons and success, a dead-on, deadpan retelling of our American literary myth.” Jess Walter
“I like novels about novelists, and surely everyone is a sucker for a story that begins at the funeral of a childhood friend — especially a funeral with such a sense of foreboding (‘we would all return to this church’). And Sons is not an easy novel to describe without giving too much of the story away. Why would the first-person narrator need to defend himself from ‘charges of narrative fraud’? Why is a seventeen-year-old Exeter student — the product, we are told, of an affair that ended the novelist’s marriage and estranged the writer from his older sons — likened to ‘a small boy overboard, possibly drowning’? Yes, the writing is gorgeous — not only the prose but the power of David Gilbert’s observations. ‘All things have a second birth,’ Gilbert writes, and later, ‘We all have something to steal.’ And have I mentioned, without giving it away, that this is a terrific story?” John Irving
“Informed by observation and memory rather than aspiration and fantasy, And Sons is a New York novel written by an actual New Yorker. David Gilbert is smart, funny, and empathetic, but most important, possessed of a true literary sensibility that is seasoned, not seasonal.” Fran Lebowitz
“And Sons is not just a great book — maddeningly smart, mercilessly funny — it is, in all the ways that matter, a large one; it contains multitudes. Gilbert writes of fathers and sons, sons and lovers, the legacies of love and remorse we bestow on one another, the concentric rings that genius generates, with a fearlessness that allows him to go where he must and a talent profound enough to bring home the slipperiest contradictions, the hardest truths. The result is an often hilarious razor-cut portrait of the twenty-first-century emotional diaspora in which we live, and perhaps the finest rendering of creation and its discontents since Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus.” Mark Slouka, author of The Visible World
About the Author
David Gilbert is the author of the story collection Remote Feed and the novel The Normals. His stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, GQ, and Bomb. He lives in New York with his wife and three children.