Gone So Long by Andre Dubus III
Published by W.W. Norton & Company, 480 pages, $28
It’s been a decade since Andre Dubus III last wrote a novel, and in his latest, Gone So Long, his protagonist is dealing with a long passage of time as well. Forty years after Daniel killed his wife, Linda, the living victims—his daughter and mother-in-law—are still electrified with pain and loathing. After serving time in jail, Daniel hasn’t seen his daughter, Susan, and certainly not his seething mother-in-law, Lois, whose loaded gun holds her hatred as she fantasizes about killing him.
Daniel realizes that jealousy and insecurity brought on what he later identifies as his “Reactor” and “Captain Suspicion.” Ironically, he is the most reflective and sympathetic character in the book as he admits his wrongdoing. He’s tormented about how to communicate with his daughter, hoping to meet and make amends. The start of his letter, “My dear daughter Susan,” is followed by, “Ive [sic] got no right to call you these things.”
Susan is a moody girl, at odds with her grandmother and recklessly taking on men—loving one guy who abandons her. Then, surprisingly, she marries the thoughtful, caretaking Bobby, who she often ambivalently leaves dangling. Despite this, he stays solid, unlike so many others in her life. Although she admits that her father represents one half of herself, she won’t capitulate to meeting him. Instead, she writes, exploring in semi-fiction what did—and what could—happen. Newburyport resident Dubus creates pages and pages of painful stream-of-consciousness thoughts and memories that haunt Daniel and Susan—paradoxically together although forever apart.
From page 5: “Three times Danny was in solitary, and it was strange how he became his father. Time was Danny’s now. Time was wet concrete he had to wade through. Time was thick air and the buzz of fluorescent lights that never went out, and Danny lived those days by reading one word at a time out of the Bible, the only book they gave him, old words he couldn’t even sound out in his head.” ◆