I love Andre Dubus II’s short stories, so when I heard that his son is also a renowned author and wrote a memoir, I had to pick it up. The Audible version is read by Dubus III himself, which somehow makes it more real and true.
Townie is the story of Andre Dubus III growing up in with a distant, somewhat well-known father who he never really grew close to. His father left his mother for a younger student, a cycle which repeats itself over and over for the rest of his life. Andre grew up with this mother and three siblings in a depressed mill town in Massachusetts. The family moved around a lot as their exhausted working mother struggled to pay the rent and keep them fed. Andre was a small, weak kid who turned to working out and using his fists to protect himself and his family from the violence all around them. As he gets older he goes to college where his father teaches, but he never shakes that “townie” persona.
Townie is more than anything a meditation on violence: Where it comes from, what triggers it, its consequences, and what it does to a person. The most terrifying part to me was how pleasurable violence can be to the initiator if s/he lets it take hold.
I stopped 2/3 of the way through this book. I just couldn’t go any further. It was depressing me and taking me to a dark place. It still gets 3.5 starts because it is very well written, but it just isn’t something I can finish right now. I still want to learn how Dubus turns to writing after doing manual labor, so perhaps I’ll return to it later.