Much like Tom, the first half of this novel is hard. Not hard to read, mind you. Dubus...is at the top of his game here, masterfully carrying the reader from the present action to Tom’s memories and dreams without confusion. The writing and the structure are clean and seamless ... In Such Kindness we remain squarely in Tom’s head, and Tom’s head is not an easy place to be. He’s a bit of a bummer to hang with, which he himself would almost eagerly admit. Still, every gritty, well-written disaster in the first half of this book is balanced by the transcendence of the novel’s ending ... At its core, this book is a hero’s journey, but not one where the hero ends up somewhere wildly different from where he starts. This is a story of acceptance. Hard-won, beautiful, life-changing acceptance.
Dubus brilliantly captures the ways chronic pain erodes the self ... Dubus is no fatalist; we are on a difficult journey of redemption. A series of small events leads to a series of tiny realizations. But there is no straight path, no Christian epiphany, only an agonizing upward spiral ... Tom becomes, then, an alternative model of masculinity. To figure out his place in this community, he will have to make himself vulnerable and soft rather than brittle and mean. Dubus, meanwhile, models this vulnerability by risking earnestness inside of a literary culture that rewards the armor of irony ... Such Kindness is an astonishing novel about all these feelings, and the actions they call forth when we pay attention.
Not much else happens in the novel, and that is both its strength and its weakness. Dubus, who teaches at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, is known for heavily researching his books, but it doesn’t really show here — and that, I believe, is a good thing ... I kept waiting for Dubus to complicate his characters, to show them existing in many more shades ... Dubus is, undoubtedly, a skilled writer, and Such Kindness is an admirable project for challenging us to show compassion for those on the economic fringes of society. But Tom feels like a prop to articulate Dubus’s worldview, and by the end, I found myself wishing for more levity to cut the woe.
Examines eternal themes through challenges facing blue-collar New Englanders. It's a big-hearted book and, like one of Tom's buildings, it has a dependable frame: likable characters, relatable dilemmas, strong prose. But Dubus' evident desire to write a novel that helps heal a country wounded by opioid addiction, class warfare and other ills results in some schematic, clumsy scenes ... [Dubus III] is a discerning storyteller. He empathizes with Tom's plight while holding him to account for poor choices. His sentences are stout, and he finds poetry amid the mundane ... But Dubus' pious message that we should all be kinder includes mawkish set pieces in which strangers have meaningful conversations about parenting and spout timeless verities ... Often solid, a novel that deserves praise for its nuanced depiction of working-class people. But Dubus'heavy-handedness prevents this from being one of his better books.
Dubus subtly shifts registers and Tom begins to explore his interiority. Dubus is a scribe of the blue collar, the downtrodden, and the destitute, with an uncanny ability to capture guilt, shame, and anger while also infusing his characters with resilience, strength, and hope. Few writers paint three-dimensional characters with such verve and humanism. Dubus is the Botticelli of Beantown.
Cloying ... Maybe Dubus aspired to infuse working-class fiction with a rare optimistic vibe; perhaps he wished to deliver a Dickensian parable on the virtues of generosity to a hardhearted America. Regardless, this ode to the myth of bootstrapping is unpersuasive. Dirty realism at its most mawkish.