I love Andre Dubus’ short stories and didn’t know quite what to expect from his essay collection, Broken Vessels. I wasn’t disappointed.
Broken Vessels is a series of 22 personal essays written between 1977-1990. Dubus is a gifted writer with an astounding ability to turn even the most mundane event to an almost spiritual affair by leading the reader gently and unassumingly along. One minute we follow his thoughts as he cooks and eats breakfast with his wife; the next minute he has transported us to a completely different realm in which this simple occasion is transformed into a communion of souls with each soul acknowledging and sharing in the other’s mortality. The reader almost does a double take, wondering how on earth he got us here.
Dubus’ topics are wide-ranging: his boyhood in Louisiana; the poetry of baseball; the challenges of making a living by writing; the car accident that cost him his leg; his painful path in learning to navigate his disability; the fragility of limb and life; the breakup of his third marriage; and, most of all, his aching love for his two youngest daughters.
In the hands of a less gifted writer, the topics could easily deteriorate into syrupy, sentimental stuff. But Dubus is never guilty of being maudlin. He writes with elegance, sensitivity, and unflinching honesty. The truths he expresses are all the more profound because they sneak up on you quietly and unexpectedly and yet they shimmer with the passion and grace that characterize his writing.