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Amy Mazzariello

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Man in the Dark
Paul Auster
Henry Holt and Co
Publish date: 2008-08-01
Trade Paper
Review date: Oct 13, 2008


A Washington Post Best Book of the Year

"Man in the Dark is an undoubted pleasure to read. Auster really does possess the wand of the enchanter."--Michael Dirda, The New York Review of Books


This is the story of a man who is in the elder stages of life. Bill is a retired book critic who has recently lost his wife, and has found himself with a badly broken leg after enduring a car accident. In an effort to heal his wounds Bill shares the home of his adult daughter and granddaughter.

Bill spends his days resting on a couch, watching movies with his granddaughter who is trying to come to terms with the loss of her boyfriend, and his brutal passing. In their effort to climb out of the darkness they begin critiquing the characters in the stories they watch unfold. With insomnia as his late night companion, Bill lies awake in the darkness and begins to tell himself a story of an America that is in the middle of a civil war. The war had started in 2000 after the botched election, and NY, WA, OR and CA have broken from the union to become the independent states of America. In his storytelling he creates a character that awakens to find he's at the bottom of a deep pit. He hears the war going on above him but has no idea how he got in the pit, where the pit is located, and which war he has suddenly woken up in.

As Bill lies awake in the dark hours of night, he inadvertently embarks on the past and the parts of it he has so desperately tried to avoid. While the story of the dumfounded soldier becomes more intense, so does Bill's mental anguish. Until one night his grieving granddaughter knocks on his door in search of a story; the true life story of Bill and her deceased grandmother.

Auster's ability to delicately weave, which in the onset feels like a plot driven story, with an ideal character driven story is smooth and well-timed. I felt comfortably at ease and continuously intriged while being led in and out of the darkness by Auster's masterful storytelling art.

I truly enjoyed this book.