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Townie

Andre Dubus III's first memoir explores his violent childhood and the refuge he found in writing.

Andre Dubus III’s first memoir explores his violent childhood and the refuge he found in writing.

After their parents divorced in the 1970s, Andre Dubus III and his three siblings grew up with their exhausted working mother in a depressed Massachusetts mill town saturated with drugs and everyday violence. To protect himself and those he loved, Andre started pumping iron and learned to use his fists so well that he became the kind of man who could send others to the hospital with one punch, and did. Irresistibly drawn to stand up for the underdog, he was on a fast track to getting killed—or killing someone else.

Nearby, his father, an eminent author, taught on a college campus and took the kids out on Sundays. The clash of worlds between town and gown, between the hard drinking, drugging, and fighting of “townies” and the ambitions of well-fed students debating books and ideas, couldn’t have been more stark or more difficult for a son to communicate to a father. Only by finally putting pen to paper himself did young Andre come into his own, discovering the power of empathy in channeling the stories of others—and ultimately bridging the rift between his father and himself.

An unforgettable book, Townie is a riveting and profound meditation on physical violence and the failures and triumphs of love.

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