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Requiem, Mass.: A Novel

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Overview

“Dufresne’s incandescent novel makes it clear that just living to tell a tale can be enough.” —People
John Dufresne takes us to Requiem, Massachusetts, where Johnny’s mom is driving in the breakdown lane once again. Dad is down South somewhere living his secret life. And little sister Audrey, when she’s not walking her cat Deluxe in a baby stroller, spends her time locked in a closet. Johnny, meanwhile, is hell-bent on saving the family from ...

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Requiem, Mass.: A Novel

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Overview

“Dufresne’s incandescent novel makes it clear that just living to tell a tale can be enough.” —People
John Dufresne takes us to Requiem, Massachusetts, where Johnny’s mom is driving in the breakdown lane once again. Dad is down South somewhere living his secret life. And little sister Audrey, when she’s not walking her cat Deluxe in a baby stroller, spends her time locked in a closet. Johnny, meanwhile, is hell-bent on saving the family from itself.

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Editorial Reviews

Miami Herald
“John Dufresne imbues the most appalling stories with humor and such an even-handed warmth they almost glow. He rides the tragicomic edge.”
BookPage
“Dufresne’s orchestration of wayward strands of storytelling makes him a worthy heir to Laurence Sterne, James Joyce and William Faulkner.”
Booklist
“Dufresne’s characters are poignant, their frailties both pitiful and hilarious in this novel of the strong push and pull of family entanglements.”
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
“Dufresne knows how to twine a poet’s language with a fictionista’s verve.”
Publishers Weekly

In the latest from Dufresne (Love Warps the Mind a Little) novelist John's newest manuscript doesn't impress his girlfriend, Annick, who thinks "it doesn't breathe." So he goes back and rewrites it as a memoir: a book within a book. In it, Johnny and Audrey grow up in Requiem, Mass., with their unraveling mother, Frances, who believes her children were replaced by aliens and who bathes in gasoline. Their secretive truck driver father, Rainey, almost certainly has something odd going on down South. The book unfolds like a series of nesting dolls: John meanders around his coastal Florida home, writing his novel, visiting with friends and going on appointments for teaching jobs, while Johnny lives with his mother's worsening condition, his father's absences, his mother's hospitalization and a momentous trip South. Then there are stories within the memoir within the story, including the one a woman tells about her friend, Ginger Rae, who talks of writing a neighbor's suicide note, then claims it's part of a story she herself is writing. John is a very amusing unreliable narrator, and Dufresne's witty, sardonic take on life's fictions leaps off the page. (July)

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Library Journal

Dufresne (Deep in the Shade of Paradise) here offers the childhood reminiscences of Johnny, who is trying to make sense of his traumatic upbringing in Requiem, MA. With a crazy mother who believes her children are imposters; a trucker father whose long, frequent absences have more to do with his secret second family than his delivery route; and a younger sister who likes to sit in closets, Johnny appears to be the only sane one in his family. He struggles none too successfully to instill his home life with some normalcy. As the adult Johnny writes this memoir and tries to make sense of his chaotic past, we get some of his more recent memories as well as a look into his present life. But the slew of other characters that Johnny recalls get tangled up with one another, as one memory triggers another until this reader frequently lost the thread of the main story. Be that as it may, Dufresne's voice is strong and witty, and while the digressions might seem at times extraneous, they are all funny and extremely well told. Recommended for all fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ3/1/08.]
—Joy Humphrey

Kirkus Reviews
Dufresne (Johnny Too Bad, 2005, etc.) travels to Requiem, Mass. The characters here are way beyond quirk-on a good day they might aspire to be wildly eccentric. The novel introduces us to a dysfunctional family (a redundant phrase in modern culture?) at whose center is "Mom," a woman who "[rolls] up her bologna into a tube and [eats] it like a cannoli, the ketchup dripping down her chin . . . " Her erratic gastronomic behavior is a symptom of her growing paranoia, which eventually becomes so bad she even denies the possibility that her children, Audrey and Johnny (the latter is the novel's narrator), can actually be hers (" ‘If they were my kids, I'd love them, wouldn't I?' "). Her increasingly bizarre deportment includes extinguishing her cigarettes in her mashed potatoes and looking around at her family and asking, " ‘Who are you people?' " Incredibly, the tone of all this is rather lighthearted, even frivolous at times. Rainy, Audrey and Johnny's father is a long-haul truck driver who cheerfully wills himself to stay away from home for weeks at a time-we soon find out that he has several other families cached away in various parts of the country. After being sent to a halfway house, Mom establishes a simulacrum of a "normal" life, at least insofar as she can with a bigamous husband and a couple of whacko children. Dufresne fills this novel with plenty of postmodern references; the writing itself is as much a subject as the oddball family.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393334869
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 7/6/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 322
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

John Dufresne is the author of seven books, including the New York Times Notable Books Love Warps the Mind a Little and Louisiana Power & Light. He teaches in the Creative Writing Department at Florida International University and lives in Dania Beach.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 9 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(5)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2014

    Huh

    My name is dufresne. Any relation.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2014

    Lorrie

    Finally managed to finish reading this mess. Very disapointed.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Not his best.

    This book was ok. That's as highly as I can speak of it. I respect it for what it was about. I couldn't finish this book because it was so predictable and boring, nothing was pushing me to keep reading through it. Definitly wasn't his best at all.

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  • Posted January 31, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    BEAUTIFULLY TRAGIC

    This book was tragic and horrifying and hysterical all at the same time. The characters were all well drawn out, but your heart goes out to Johnny and Audrey. I particularly loved Deluxe the cat. Growing up is tough for Johnny but it is apparent he is a survivor. Audrey may or may not have a touch of her Mother in her. I loved this book but it scared me, as it reminded me of my childhood growing up in South Lake in Hollywood,Fl. and later Dania, my desperately insane Mother and my indifferent father.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2008

    Touching and emotional must-read

    I saw this book in People magazine, and they had given it 4 stars so it seemed like a good risk to take. Based on the writer's real accounts, I found myself feeling the same emotions as he did, hoping that the story would have some kind of happy ending. From mental illness to pathological liars, John Dephresne paints a vivid picture of his childhood with a mentally ill mom and an absent and deceptive dad. I would definitely recommend this book. You won't want to put it down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2010

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    Posted March 19, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2009

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    Posted August 19, 2009

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