Review: Sunset Park

Sunset Park
Sunset Park
By Paul Auster
(Picador, Paperback, 9780312610678, 320pp.)

The Short of It:

Mesmerizing prose with angst at its core. Auster’s skill as a writer somehow conveys all of the insecurities we feel as adults and reminds us that we are vulnerable, fragile individuals.

The Rest of It:

Miles Heller is twenty-eight-years-old and educated,  but can’t seem to find the motivation to do anything. Just a few credits shy of getting his degree, he’d rather take odd jobs and ponder life and love than become a productive member of society.

After floundering around for what seems like quite a long time, Miles falls in love with Pilar. Pilar is not yet eighteen which makes her a dangerous obsession. Especially in the eyes of her family, who see the relationship as doomed from day one. After a run-in with Pilar’s sister, Miles escapes to Brooklyn, thinking it would be good to wait until Pilar hits legal age. Then, and only then, will he ask her to marry him.

In Brooklyn, he joins a group of young squatters who are holed up in an abandoned building in an area known as Sunset Park. Living rent-free, they go about their lives, knowing that at any moment, they could be forcibly removed. The precarious nature of their living arrangement is a constant reminder that the future is always moving forward and change is just around the corner.

Set during the 2008 economic collapse, this is a story of love, loss and regret and what it means to be a part of something; be it big or small. The story is mainly character-driven, no huge plot points to speak of, but after just a few pages, I found that I liked Miles quite a bit. He is technically, a good guy. A bit confused and struggling to find himself, but essentially good. Although my life experiences differ from his, I found that I could easily relate to what he was feeling at any given point. I attribute that to Auster’s writing style.

That said, I was completely taken aback by the ending. The ending was appropriate, but it was sudden. There I was, hanging on Auster’s every word, and then poof, the novel ended. What occurred to me later is that although the novel ended, the story continued. Those characters are left to continue on with their lives and as a reader, all I could do was wish them well.

I’ve read one other Auster book, Invisible and I recall a similar feeling with that one, but I liked it very much and I can say the same for this one. Sunset Park wasn’t at all what I expected it to be, but it was well worth the read and to be honest, it’s nice to be surprised once in a while.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

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28 thoughts on “Review: Sunset Park”

    1. Thanks! What a nice comment. I try to mix it up a bit or I get bored. There is definitely a style of writing that I prefer (simple, quiet stories) but the players change all the time and I am trying to work new authors in between my tried and true faves.

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  1. I read this one last year, and was also surprised by the ending. I thought that Auster had a really quiet and deliberate style, and I enjoyed this book a lot. I can’t remember now all the things that I liked about it, but I do remember thinking it was a satisfying and introspective read. Thanks for the exceptional review, Ti. I enjoyed reading your thoughts!

    1. I like that… quiet and deliberate. You sure have a way with words. Have you read any other books by him? I really liked Invisible. It had the same feel to it, but my book club hated it! Now that I’ve read a second book by him, I must say that I am attracted to his style of writing.

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  2. I love Auster’s writing, so this one sounds like my cup of tea. Great review, Ti! Will definitely be adding it to my TBR 🙂 I’m really looking forward to this one now.

  3. I’ve heard about this guy, but nothing has prodded me to read him. But there is another woman that I volunteer with at Adult Literacy League that has serious fan girl obsessions, and told us we absolutely needed to get him as a guest speaker. I chuckled. So maybe I need to give him a shot. Books with this pacing is not something I’m good with all the time, so I’ll have to plan accordingly.

    1. I heard him speak and he’s a great speaker. Personally, I don’t think his writing is your cup of tea but as a speaker…you would love him.

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    1. Kathy, I will save you the time… there are two people I know who will not enjoy this style of writing, you and Sandy!

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  4. Thank you for another great review! I’ve been reading your posts and reviews for a few months now, and in light of the recent holiday I thought I would take a moment to tell you how much I appreciate your thoughtful and articulate style. As for this book review in particular, I’ve never read any Paul Auster books before, but I’m intrigued by what you have to say about the character-driven nature of the story, and the imperfect and struggling nature of the character. These are both ingredients I tend to like in a book. I shouldn’t thank you for adding another book to my already overflowing to-be-read list, but I will. 🙂 I look forward to reading more of your posts.

  5. Sometimes an abrupt ending can be maddening. But the fact that you wanted more and the characters were alive for you makes me want to try it. Obviously he did something right!

    1. And…depending how you interpret the ending, it might make a difference in how you feel about the book too. Readers who need resolution might be a tad frustrated with it, but the writing was really wonderful. Auster’s style is easy on the brain yet high brow at the same time.

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  6. I have yet to read one of Auster’s books but have been meaning to. I’ve got a couple on my shelf. I’m curious about the ending of this book. I know what you mean about feeling like you like it even though it wasn’t at all what you expected and how that can be a nice surprise sometimes!

    1. One of my book club members said that when she reads Auster, she always feels as if she is being “led by the hand” and she doesn’t like that because she likes to make her own assumptions. Maybe that is what you feel, too? I don’t like it when an author tells you how to feel but I didn’t get that from either of the books I’ve read.

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  7. I’m definitely an Auster fan. I’ve only read two of his books, but I plan on reading more. This one sounds fabulous. For me it’s always nice to finish a book and be pleasantly surprised. I’ve been in somewhat of a reading slump lately, so maybe this would be a good one to try. I love character driven stories when they are well written.

  8. I love Paul Auster’s writing. Thanks for this review, Sunset Park will now be on my (long) TBR list. Have you read his The Music of Chance? It’s a unique story. And if you can, get hold of the movie (with James Spader). As a former film student, you’ll find it tantalizing. I’m also curious about his New York Trilogy. I’ve appreciated your selection of reads… eclectic, shall I say?

    1. The only other book besides Sunset Park that I’ve read, is Invisible. I am slowly going to work my way through his other books. My reading has been a bit eclectic this year. I love it! Last year I hit so many reading ruts. This year? None!

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  9. I read Auster many years ago while I was on vacation. The book didn’t register with me and in fact I don’t remember the title. A friend has always recommended The New York trilogy. Character-driven plot is fine and I feel this is a nice match for my reading mood at the moment.

  10. I quite like this one and I love his writing style Ti. I really do. so I’m with you on this. I look forward to read the rest of his work. To start with the oldish “New York Trilogy”.

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