Day 724: & Sons

Cover for & Sons& Sons is a novel about fathers and sons, but it is really most about sons and the effect on them of their father’s actions. It is also about the fate of a lifelong friendship.

The friendship seems to be the catalyst for events. Charles Topping has died, and his funeral is packed with people waiting to see his best friend, the reclusive novelist A. N. Dyer, give the eulogy. Dyer is noted for several excellent books, but Ampersand has become a classic about prep school life.

At the funeral, though, it becomes clear that Andrew Dyer himself isn’t quite all there. During the eulogy, he becomes upset about the whereabouts of his young son Andy and has to be removed from the podium.

The story is told by a narrator who is not at all trustworthy, Charles Toppings’ son Philip. When Andrew Dyer meets him at the funeral and finds he has split from his wife, he kindly invites him to stay.

This suits Philip, who grows more malevolent as we get to know him. He is on hand a few weeks later when the Dyers reunite at their father’s request to discuss something important. He can be there to eavesdrop and look through old papers, but generally he cannot possibly be privy to all the details of the story he tells.

Andrew Dyer has been estranged from his ex-wife and two sons since the family learned about the existence of his third son, Andy. Andy is now seventeen. Andrew has tried to avoid neglecting him, as he did his two other sons, and do a better job of bringing him up. But Andrew knows he is nearing the end and is afraid Andy will be alone. He fears Andy is just as messed up as the other sons, only in a different way. Andrew has formed another preoccupation about Andy that shows how divorced he is from reality.

Andrew’s oldest son Richard is an ex-drug addict who has stabilized his life with great difficulty. He is now a drug counselor and has a wife and two teen children. The other son Jamie is a documentary filmmaker whose films for years have dwelt on the darkest of subjects. Philip Topping has a grudge against both of them for the teasing he received as a child.

The novel is told using letters between Andrew and Charlie, passages from Ampersand, and other artifacts from Andrew’s life, as well as Philip’s testimony. We find Andrew feverishly manufacturing an “original draft” of Ampersand because he burned up the original manuscript in disgust at what he did to his old friend Charles in fiction. Now he needs one to leave with his papers.

I waited to write my review for a few days after I finished the book, and I’m still not sure how much I enjoyed the novel. It is well written and absorbing, and it provides a lot to think about.

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14 thoughts on “Day 724: & Sons

  1. Emily J. June 23, 2015 / 6:54 pm

    This sounds like one I would really like. It also made me think of our literary wives books and how something like this might be comparable or interesting to compare to what we’ve done with those.

    • whatmeread June 24, 2015 / 7:25 am

      Yes, I think maybe we should broaden our horizons as far as locating books to read, but it would take more research.

  2. Naomi June 23, 2015 / 7:46 pm

    I’ve heard lots of good things about this book, and I agree with Emily that it might have some interesting themes in it relating to Literary Wives. There must be some women in these men’s lives.

    • whatmeread June 24, 2015 / 7:26 am

      Well, there are some women but they aren’t very strongly depicted. However, there have to be female equivalents for this book. I have been talking to Emily about maybe looking for books that are about wives without them necessarily having the word “wife” or “wives” in the title. OF course, that makes them harder to find.

      • Cecilia June 24, 2015 / 10:27 am

        I totally agree. I think we did talk about doing this in the past?

      • whatmeread June 24, 2015 / 10:59 am

        Yes, I think we did. I don’t think we’ve had any brainstorms about how to pick books, though, except by having at least one person already having read it. Maybe people won’t want to reread books for the club, though. Maybe when we get ready to pick books next year, we can sort of brainstorm about a way to do it, because searching for the word “wife” was relative easy. Yet it still didn’t always result in a book that had much of an examination of a wife’s role.

  3. Cecilia June 24, 2015 / 10:28 am

    This book sounds very interesting. What is it about it that gave you reservations? Is the writing good?

    • Cecilia June 24, 2015 / 10:29 am

      Oops, sorry, you did say it was well written.

    • whatmeread June 24, 2015 / 11:00 am

      It is well written. I’m not really sure. It might have had to do with the ending, which I usually wouldn’t want to reveal. IF you want to know what it is, tell me, and I’ll send it to you by email. I don’t usually like to reveal surprising endings.

  4. Carolyn O June 25, 2015 / 4:53 pm

    I was surprised by how much I liked this book—I thought it was really, really good.

    • whatmeread June 26, 2015 / 7:35 am

      I guess the ending through me a bit. It seemed to come out of the blue.

      • Carolyn O June 26, 2015 / 10:57 am

        Definitely unexpected.

  5. A Little Blog of Books June 28, 2015 / 2:16 pm

    I had mixed feelings about this book. I read it over a year ago but to be honest, I can’t remember that much about it! It is well written but I lost interest in the second half.

    • whatmeread June 29, 2015 / 7:27 am

      I thought it was more interesting than that, but I wasn’t sure what I thought about it when I had finished.

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