Paul Auster, SunsetPark
We meet Miles Helle in his capacity as a trash-out worker in southern Florida. The duties of the trade–cleaning and repairing foreclosed houses in order to render them sellable–seem ill-matched to 28-year-old Miles’ Ivy League background and comfortable New York origins. Then again, he’s a weird case: private and flat of affect, with a terrible tragedy in his past and an underage Cuban girlfriend in his present. “To the best of his knowledge,” Auster writes, Miles “has no ambitions.”
When a conflagration in Florida forces Miles to return to New York, he winds up moving into a Brooklyn squatter house at the suggestion of an old friend, Bing. Miles’s actress mother, meanwhile, is plotting a return to the Broadway stage after a decade in television and movies, and his father is struggling to prop up a floundering book publishing outfit. Miles hasn’t seen his parents in years, and the potential calamity of a reunion is the tension underscoring Miles’s Brooklyn exile.
The story takes place in 2008, and a sense of doom (both ongoing and impending, and not only economic) weighs on every character. This includes Bing, who operates a business called the “Hospital for Broken Things,” as well as Miles’s two oddball roommates and his scattered constellation of half-broken family members. All of their stories interlace in Sunset Park, which unfolds in the sort of lovely, rarefied prose that Auster admirers will recognize.