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The Cage Keeper


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About the Author

Andre Dubus III lives in Newburyport, Massachusetts.


In his first collection, Dubus displays a firm grasp of the requirements of satisfying short fiction and a wide-ranging eye tightly focused on the telling detail. Many of his stories center around prisons, their main characterswhether guards or inmatesbeing men on the edge of incarceration or release, an in-between state rendering them particularly vulnerable to failure and its legacy. The title story tells of a young guard in a minimum-security facility whose sympathies for crime victims are tempered when he is taken hostage by an escapee and, trapped with him during a long night's drive, learns the story behind his conviction. ``Duckling Girl'' is about a teenager who seeks relief from her sexually abusive father with two similarly abusive teenage boys. The particularly accomplished final story, ``Last Dance,'' is narrated by a young man who learns to accept the end of an affair during a night-long hunt for a snapping turtle; with echoes of The Old Man and the Sea , this story captures powerful emotional movement in the carefully rendered details of a metaphor. Often violent, given to drink, vulnerable to sexual desire, Dubus's characters are equally capable of compassion and love. No unessential information diminishes the impact of these stories , but what does matterto both characters and readersis grippingly and generously portrayed. (Jan.)

This author takes risks, launching a fiction career just as his critically praised father publishes a story collection (see review above), and treating themes likely to startle, if not repel, some readers. The risks pay off. Dubus here reveals a talent that may one day make him equal to his father in narrative mastery. His characters live on the lower end of U.S. society, enmeshed in sometimes violent struggles as they clutch at the rim of sanity. The stark descriptions of these disaffected souls in the first six stories jolt readers into contemplating the nature of evil. The final tale, ``Last Dance,'' is gentler in its Faulkneresque evocation of a nighttime turtle hunt in Louisiana but matches the rest in clarity of vision. Recommended.Starr E. Smith, Georgetown Univ. Lib., Washington, D.C .

"Powerful... Richly original."
--Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Andre Dubus has a talent for delineating the everyday pathos of obscure, unglamorous lives."
--The New York Times Book Review

"[An] insightful exploration of the nature of violence."
--San Francisco Examiner

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