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The Cage Keeper and Other Stories (Book Review)
“The Cage Keeper and Other Stories” is a collection of seven short stories by Andre Dubus III. The originality of this collection lies in the strength of the characters and the author’s microscopic view of the human condition.
Externally, the stories in this collection focus on characters from rougher walks of life with some connection to captivity. Most of the characters – major or minor – are either prison workers, have served time in prison, or are about to go to prison. On the inside, however, the characters’ true closure comes from their inwardness and their vulnerability regarding unfinished business or unresolved life issues. All the stories mix conflicting emotions as the characters seek acceptance from themselves and others.
The first story, “The Keeper of the Cage”, is the one with the most complete plot. Despite this, the reader is more impressed by the characters in the story than by the plot, which involves an escaped convict and his hostage, a young prison guard.
Another story, “Duck Girl,” is about an incest victim who willingly takes more abuse from cruel teenagers.
The third story, “Wolves in the Swamp”, is about the growing up of a young man who goes hunting alone.
The fourth story, “Forky”, is about an ex-convict who served seven years in prison. As he talks about the woman he picked up in a bar, he remembers an inmate who reminded him of his brother.
The fifth story, “Mountains,” is told from the perspective of Sally, a waitress who loves a Vietnam vet with PTSD.
The sixth story, “White Trees, Hammer Moon”, tells the story of a man named Rory, a loser and father figure who is about to go to prison. In the story, Rory spoils a camping trip with two children in the mountains of New Hampshire.
The seventh story, “The Last Dance”, is about a turtle hunt where the young character Reilly remembers a woman as the turtle hunt is described in detail.
“The Keeper of the Cage and Other Stories” is a paperback with 224 pages and ISBN: 9780375727740.
The most outstanding features of the book are the frighteningly real characters in the stories and the author’s eloquence and mastery in the use of the English language.
The author, Andre Dubus III, after graduating with a degree in sociology, decided to write and then worked as a bounty hunter, private detective, carpenter, bartender, actor and teacher. Andre Dubus III has won numerous literary awards and honors from the Pushcart Prize to being a finalist for the 1999 National Book Award. He lives in Massachusetts with his family and teaches at Emerson College’s MFA in Writing program and at Tufts University. Besides “The Cage Keeper and Other Stories”, he has novels like “Bluesman” and “House of Sand and Fog”.
I am deeply impressed by the writer’s insight and empathy into the spirits of his characters. Any aspiring fiction writer will learn a lot about character development from reading Andre Dubus III, especially The Cage Keeper and Other Stories.
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