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A Memoir

Andre Dubus III (Author, University of Massachusetts, Lowell)


Won Book of the Year Adult Non-Fiction—2012 Indie Choice Awards
Amazon Best Book of the Month February 2011

An acclaimed novelist reflects on his violent past and a lifestyle that threatened to destroy him—until he was saved by 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.

Book Details

  • Hardcover
  • February 2011
  • ISBN 978-0-393-06466-7
  • 6.6 × 9.6 in / 400 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Other Formats

  1. Book CoverTownie: A Memoir


Endorsements & Reviews

“You have to buy Townie.” — The Chronicle of Higher Education

“Starred Review. Dubus chronicles each traumatic incident and realization in stabbing detail. So chiseled are his dramatic memories, his shocking yet redemptive memoir of self-transformation feels like testimony under oath as well as hard-hammered therapy, coalescing, ultimately, in a generous, penetrating, and cathartic dissection of misery and fury, creativity and forgiveness, responsibility and compassion.” — Booklist

“Starred Review. His compassionate memoir abounds with exquisitely rendered scenes of fighting, cheating, drugging, drinking and loving. A striking, eloquent account of growing up poor and of the making of a writer.” — Kirkus Reviews

Townie is a better, harder book than anything the younger Mr. Dubus has yet written; it pays off on every bet that’s been placed on him.... Mr. Dubus’s prose is clear, supple, unshowy....you’ll agree with the boxing coach who said to Mr. Dubus as a teenager, 'I think you got the killer instinct, kid.'” — The New York Times

“[A] harrowing and strange and beautiful book....an important moment in the growing body of Dubus’s work. ” — Boston Globe

“Write what you know. It's an adage drilled into anyone who's ever put pen to paper or fingers to keys. It's also what makes memoirs such a test for fiction writers.Andre Dubus III passes that test with the highest marks in Townie. It's a searing memoir; a punch in the gut, literally.... [Dubus has] discovered, during a life of enduring and inflicting pain, his voice as a writer. Townie captures the birth and evolution of that voice—one worth listening to by anyone who believes in the redemptive power of the written word.” — Associated Press

“Dubus III, author of the critically acclaimed novel House of Sand and Fog, relates the story of his childhood and young adulthood with an immediate, raw intensity—it's at times difficult to read, but it's almost impossible to turn away. His prose is unaffected in the best way possible; there's never a hint of preciousness or pretentiousness. And his depictions of the northeastern Massachusetts of the '70s are stark and evocative; like his father, Dubus III is a master of setting.” — Michael Schaub, NPR.org

“This haunting memoir is as explosive as a Muhammad Ali prize fight, as vivid as a Basquiat canvas.... Townie moves with the accelerating momentum of a thriller novel, plumbs the depths of a bittersweet love affair, and rends the reader's heart in two.” — Dan Cryer, San Francisco Chronicle

“In his memoir Townie, Andre Dubus III bravely claims all of the shadows he grew up under—his famous writer father, his parents’ divorce, his newly single mother’s impoverishment, the rough streets of the many working-class New England towns he called home. Fighting saved him for a while; then he put down his fists and picked up a pen. Lucky him, lucky us.” — Elle

“[Dubus] is such a solid writer, he redeems the genre. He shows that truth can be as honest as fiction.” — Seattle Times

“This is a memoir both disconcertingly naked and immensely careful; Dubus refrains from bitterness the way a Buddhist monk renounces worldly possessions....It's tempting to get angry on the author's behalf, but Townie patiently teaches its readers that rage is self-poisoning.” — Laura Miller, Salon

“His ability to describe violence might be unmatched among contemporary writers. He understands the arcane, unspoken vocabulary of how fights start, as well as the bone-crushing details of how they end. But Townie is most memorable for how vulnerable Dubus seems, once he has stripped himself down to the soul for his readers.” — Richmond Times-Dispatch

“[A]n unflinching memoir, describing the degrees of darkness and light he found....Dubus has set a high water mark in this work: He shows us that the son's shadow can also be long, and can change the shape of that which came before it.” — Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune

“Dubus writes compellingly of those trying times. Townie is a poignant coming-of-age story told by a man whose raw determination allowed him to endure a boyhood ruled by violence and emerge talented enough to write about it with brutal honesty.” — Miami Herald

Townie has all the rich texture, lucid characterization, compelling conflicts and narrative momentum of the best fiction. It renders heartbreaking, violent, tender and sometimes absurdly comic scenes without a trace of narcissism or sentimentality. From first sentence to last, Dubus employs a dispassionate yet urgent voice. It allows him to do justice to his past and to the people who populated it.” — Cleveland Plain-Dealer

“Fans of Dubus’s fiction will thrill to reading his muscular, occasionally lyrical prose rendering his own life.” — Smith Magazine

“The best first-person account of an author's life I have ever read. The violence that is described is the kind that is with us every day, whether we recognize it or not. The characters are wonderful and compassionately drawn. I sincerely believe Andre Dubus may be the best writer in America. His talent is enormous. No one who reads this book will ever forget it.” — James Lee Burke, author of the Dave Robicheaux novels

“I've never read a better or more serious meditation on violence, its sources, consequences, and, especially, its terrifying pleasures, than Townie. It's a brutal and, yes, thrilling memoir that sheds real light on the creative process of two of our best writers, Andre Dubus III and his famous, much revered father. You'll never read the work of either man in quite the same way afterward. You may not view the world in quite the same way either.” — Richard Russo, author of Empire Falls

“In this powerful memoir, Andre Dubus III explores the complicated and intense relationships between siblings, mothers and sons, and fathers and sons. Growing up in hardscrabble old mill towns, Dubus learned to fight and survive and ultimately to find his own glorious voice … as Dubus finds his redemptive place in the world at last.” — Ann Hood, author of The Red Thread

“Compelling, riveting, gritty and astonishingly moving, Dubus's memoir Townie achieves that rarest of qualities: it makes us love the boy who becomes the man.” — Anita Shreve, author of Rescue

“Whatever it cost Dubus to bare his soul and write this brutally honest and life-affirming memoir, it is an extraordinary gift to his readers.” — Wally Lamb, author of The Hour I First Believed

Also by Andre Dubus III All

  1. Book CoverDirty Love


  2. Book CoverThe Garden of Last Days: A Novel


  3. Book CoverHouse of Sand and Fog


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