Daniel Ahearn lives a quiet, solitary existence in a seaside New England town. Forty years ago, following a shocking act of impulsive violence on his part, his daughter, Susan, was ripped from his arms by police. Now in her forties, Susan still suffers from the trauma of a night she doesn’t remember, as she struggles to feel settled, to love a man and create something that lasts. Lois, her maternal grandmother who raised her, tries to find peace in her antique shop in a quaint Florida town but cannot escape her own anger, bitterness, and fear.
Cathartic, affirming, and steeped in the empathy and precise observations of character for which Dubus is celebrated, Gone So Long explores how the wounds of the past afflict the people we become, and probes the limits of recovery and absolution.
My Thoughts: The story opens as Susan starts writing about her childhood experiences, and about some fleeting memories of her father’s visits to his parole officer. Throughout the book, her creative moments reveal much about her own life and trauma.
Alternating narrators for Gone So Long include Susan, her father Daniel, and her grandmother Lois.
All the narrators sweep back and forth in time, offering a slowly evolving tale of what has happened to each of them.
I especially enjoyed Susan’s voice, and while Danny/Daniel appealed to my sense of a character seeking redemption, it was hard to get past what he had done.
Lois, Susan’s grandmother, was somewhat unlikable, but I could also enjoy parts of her shared moments and admired how she had created a successful antique store. She seemed judgmental, but as the story moved along, we could see her trying to be more empathetic.
As we follow Daniel on his journey toward his daughter, and as we accept his flashbacks as his way of acknowledging his sins, we can finally hope that father and daughter will connect in some way. But there is also a hint of a combustible reunion that will turn everything on its head. I held my breath as the pages turned, wondering what the characters would do next, feeling their joy and sadness along with their regrets, and anticipating how their paths would eventually cross. 4.5 stars.***