Lust for power

2008-09-10 00:00

IN the United States in September 2001, days before the 9/11 terror attack, Americans are blissfully unaware of what’s to come. The story focuses on three foreigners within U.S. borders, who are making themselves ready through prayer and fasting to annihilate the country’s perception that it is untouchable. But the men also sample some of the pleasures available in the U.S. and that’s where one of them encounters April, the stripper at the Puma Club for Men, and he begins to act out his lust for power and domination over the American.

Young, single mother of three-year-old Franny, April is earning good money at the strip joint, trying to save for her and her child’s future. Franny’s usual babysitter is taken ill one night, so April takes her little girl to work and asks one of the women there to look after her while she dances and works the room. It is a bonus that she is asked to do a private dance for a loaded foreign client, Bassam. While she is with Bassam, April’s worst nightmare becomes a reality and the horror of her next few days begins.

Enter AJ, a tortured man who just wants to be loved and whom I felt a bit sorry for, despite his stupid actions.

The way Dubus portrays the Islamic martyrs, as hard, hateful men who have no compassion or compunction about what they plan to do, is I suppose what Americans want to read, but I found their characterisation just a tad overdone.

I approached this book with a sinking feeling, because of the seamy description on the back cover, but found it was pretty tame after all and became gripped by the plot, with its psychological twists.

With interesting layers in the plot, the Garden of Last Days is a gripping read, but don’t expect to feel uplifted by it. It is a bit of a downer and its dealings with the seedier aspects of society and the darker depths of the psyche are just plain unsettling.

Dubus also wrote the bestseller House of Sand and Fog.

Stephanie Saville

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