Dubus evokes a dazzling palette of emotions as he skillfully unpacks the psychological tensions between remorse and guilt, fear and forgiveness, anger and love. Susan, Daniel, and Lois are fully realized and authentic characters who live with pain and heartache while struggling to fill the tremendous void created by the tragedy. Heartrending yet unsentimental, this powerful testament to the human spirit asks what it means to atone for the unforgivable and to empathize with the broken.
These are hard things to write about and Dubus asks difficult questions. What do you do with a man who has done what Daniel Ahearn has done? How do you sympathize with him? Dubus does a good job of making Daniel’s self-justifications seem simultaneously plausible and crazy ... Dubus writes well about class—not so much the clash between different ends of the social ladder as the internal conflict that determines whether someone will rise or fall. His characters usually have a foot on two rungs. They’re going up or down. What drives Dubus’s storytelling is the urge to find out which way they’ll turn.
Full of ghosts and regrets and glimmering shards of excavated memory, Gone So Long is about destruction and redemption and the stupid, stubborn way people have of squandering love ... This novel is an ensemble piece, each chapter told from the point of view of a different principal ... Inadvisably large swaths of the book consist of Susan’s own strained writing, as when she recalls an abortion she had as an undergraduate... When she falls asleep naked with a female roommate ('We had no air conditioner'), there’s more than a whiff of Penthouse Letters to what happens next. Even then, weirdly, Susan is hungry for the male gaze. And yet the novel otherwise works, its last 100 or so pages whipping by in a series of crises and near misses and realizations that the healing we so want for these broken people might not come for all of them.
“Gone So Long is as pure an example as you will find of the mainstream trauma novel, which is today the one narrative that transcends the genres and regionalisms that divide American fiction... This means that, although Mr. Dubus is a clear and sensitive writer, his story observes the formula of trauma therapy. Both Daniel and Susan are struggling to confront a repressed horror and thereby achieve the emotional catharsis that will allow them to make a separate peace with the past.
Gone So Long has everything a novel could ask for: It’s a literary page-turner that explores the grit and pain of working class lives through complex personalities and beautifully pungent, multisensory language. From the earliest pages, author Andre Dubus III is intensely inside his characters’ bodies and memories ... This new book’s only major flaw is that, at 480 pages, it sags and repeats at times. Yes, the tension in the last 150 pages is almost unbearable—in a good sense. But Dubus drags out the denouement just too much...
Gone So Long isn’t a thriller, but it’s taut with tension. Dubus manages to keep readers on edge despite telling a tale in which very little happens in the present ... The characters are complex, but Dubus’ writing is simple as he fleshes them out ... Gone So Long is a multilayered character study, told in flashbacks and memoir excerpts and present-day prose, slowly revealing the strength and resilience of its two main female characters and ending with a hint of hope.
Dubus renders this story of love, jealousy, guilt, and atonement in a voice that rings with authenticity and evokes the texture of working-class lives ... Though the entire cast is vividly drawn, perhaps most impressive is how Dubus elicits sympathy in the reader for Danny, whose life effectively ended the moment he picked up the knife. This is a compassionate and wonderful novel.
Dubus puts this pot on a very slow boil, continuing to fill in the backstory as he inches the characters toward their climactic meeting, some of them carrying firearms. Grim, hopeless situations are this author's specialty, but the care he takes in the emotional development of his flawed characters buoys them against the undertow. Danny Ahearn is a uniquely sympathetic murderer, and the window we are given into Susan's memories and emotions through drafts and excerpts from her memoir brings us very close to her as well. Dubus is in his gritty wheelhouse, exploring the question of how we live with our mistakes and whether we can ever stop adding to them.