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Passion and betrayal, violent desperation, ambivalent love that hinges on hatred, and the quest for acceptance by those who stand on the edge of society-these are the hard-hitting themes of a stunningly crafted first collection of stories by the bestselling author of House of Sand and Fog. A vigilant young man working in a halfway house finds himself unable to defend agains Passion and betrayal, violent desperation, ambivalent love that hinges on hatred, and the quest for acceptance by those who stand on the edge of society-these are the hard-hitting themes of a stunningly crafted first collection of stories by the bestselling author of House of Sand and Fog. A vigilant young man working in a halfway house finds himself unable to defend against the rage of one of the inmates in the title story. In "White Trees, Hammer Moon," a man soon to leave home for prison finds himself as unprepared for a family camping trip in the mountains of New Hampshire as he has been for most things in his life. And in the award-winning "Forky," an ex-con is haunted by the punishment he receives just as he is being released into the world. With an incisive ability to inhabit the lives of his characters, Dubus travels deep into the heart of the elusive American dream.


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Passion and betrayal, violent desperation, ambivalent love that hinges on hatred, and the quest for acceptance by those who stand on the edge of society-these are the hard-hitting themes of a stunningly crafted first collection of stories by the bestselling author of House of Sand and Fog. A vigilant young man working in a halfway house finds himself unable to defend agains Passion and betrayal, violent desperation, ambivalent love that hinges on hatred, and the quest for acceptance by those who stand on the edge of society-these are the hard-hitting themes of a stunningly crafted first collection of stories by the bestselling author of House of Sand and Fog. A vigilant young man working in a halfway house finds himself unable to defend against the rage of one of the inmates in the title story. In "White Trees, Hammer Moon," a man soon to leave home for prison finds himself as unprepared for a family camping trip in the mountains of New Hampshire as he has been for most things in his life. And in the award-winning "Forky," an ex-con is haunted by the punishment he receives just as he is being released into the world. With an incisive ability to inhabit the lives of his characters, Dubus travels deep into the heart of the elusive American dream.

30 review for The Cage Keeper and Other Stories

  1. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Smith

    In his memoir, Townie, Dubus talks of his upbringing in tough New England towns, where he was at first bullied by other boys but eventually trained himself to become a brawler of some repute. Here, in an early compendium of short stories, he is at home portraying a collection of down at heel characters trying to come to terms with their less than perfect lives. The stories all have violent undertones and won’t be to everyone’s taste, but there is no doubting the author’s ability to paint startl In his memoir, Townie, Dubus talks of his upbringing in tough New England towns, where he was at first bullied by other boys but eventually trained himself to become a brawler of some repute. Here, in an early compendium of short stories, he is at home portraying a collection of down at heel characters trying to come to terms with their less than perfect lives. The stories all have violent undertones and won’t be to everyone’s taste, but there is no doubting the author’s ability to paint startling images with his words. Some feature men who have been jailed or are soon to be jailed; there is killing here and casual brutality, but there is also use of a rustic dialogue that makes each piece feel compellingly real. The men and women are either searching for something or lamenting its loss. There is longing and regret, recalled memories and wistful dreams of better times. To me, the book resonated not just with the tales themselves but the sights, sounds and even smells associated with each. I’m not sure if Dubus tells us of these things but they were definitely there, in my head. If I have a criticism it would be the one you’d expect of any such collection: some of the stories landed better than others. But each has its merits and I’d only counsel that such is the power of these seven tales it is probably best to space them out, to take your time with this book. I've no doubt that Dubus III suffers from the fact his father was a famous writer (and an author I’ve certainly enjoyed) in that his own work is less well known and is invariably compared with that of the senior Andre Dubus. But in my opinion, to miss out on the writings of this hugely talented man would be negligent to say the least – I think it’s amongst the best contemporary American literature out there.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Emm C²

    Almost every year, I torture myself with Dubus III's phenomenal yet soul-crushing masterpiece, House of Sand and Fog, so I supposed it was time to finally delve into some of his other work. He seems to particularly love writing angry, deeply psychologically flawed characters who face some kind of everyday injustice which makes them that way. I don't know, that's something I tend to be drawn towards myself, but some of these characters teeter too close to the border of evil to really be sympathet Almost every year, I torture myself with Dubus III's phenomenal yet soul-crushing masterpiece, House of Sand and Fog, so I supposed it was time to finally delve into some of his other work. He seems to particularly love writing angry, deeply psychologically flawed characters who face some kind of everyday injustice which makes them that way. I don't know, that's something I tend to be drawn towards myself, but some of these characters teeter too close to the border of evil to really be sympathetic - the men in "Duckling Girl" spring to mind. I suppose that's the point, though. I would not start with this book if you're interested in this author, start with Townie or House of Sand and Fog, but I would recommend it overall. It's thought-provoking and elegant as ever, and some part of it will haunt you for awhile. A full review to come soon.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Dylan Perry

    Reread: September, 2017 I cannot tell you why I decided to pick this up again, going from rereading Townie to rereading Cage Keeper, from my favorite Dubus work to my least. When you tell a story, no matter the format, you want it to feel like the character(s) most important story. This has stuck with me in my own writing, and gets to the root of my problem with most of this collection. Five out of seven stories don't feel important. They were disposable tales that had little weight or meaning be Reread: September, 2017 I cannot tell you why I decided to pick this up again, going from rereading Townie to rereading Cage Keeper, from my favorite Dubus work to my least. When you tell a story, no matter the format, you want it to feel like the character(s) most important story. This has stuck with me in my own writing, and gets to the root of my problem with most of this collection. Five out of seven stories don't feel important. They were disposable tales that had little weight or meaning behind them. Perhaps this seems harsh, and reading it now, it is. But when I've seen Dubus do better, it just feels so damn disappointing to feel utterly disconnected for much of the time I spent with this. That said, there are highlights. The first two stories are worth the cover price alone (The titular story was my favorite of the bunch). And Dubus' prose is always on point even when the tale feels off center. This man knows how to write a sentence that flows and leaves me in awe. He uses present tense with the quiet ease of a true master; no other working writer I've read has quite matched him. For all this I bump it up to a 3.5 but with the problems I gave before, I cannot give it a higher rating than this. Original Review This collection was a mixed bag for me. After loving two of Andre Dubus' books I'm left a bit wanting after finishing this. Of the seven stories I thought two were excellent, two were meh, and skipped three altogether because they didn't hold my attention. The cover is beautiful and I'll proudly display it on my shelves with the rest of my Dubus books, but overall I was disappointed and probably won't read it again.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Alex English

    The Cage Keeper and other Stories by Andre Dubus is a colllective reading of lives that fall between the cracks. A beautiful arrangement of strange, tragic, and liberating things, Andre Dubus uses his direct, and sometimes humorous language, to tell stories no one thinks to tell. Starting with The Cage Keeper”, a worker in a halfway house is kidnapped by an inmate and friend, and forced to drive him to freedom. The second, “Duckling girl” is the touching and heart-wrenching story of a girl who e The Cage Keeper and other Stories by Andre Dubus is a colllective reading of lives that fall between the cracks. A beautiful arrangement of strange, tragic, and liberating things, Andre Dubus uses his direct, and sometimes humorous language, to tell stories no one thinks to tell. Starting with The Cage Keeper”, a worker in a halfway house is kidnapped by an inmate and friend, and forced to drive him to freedom. The second, “Duckling girl” is the touching and heart-wrenching story of a girl who escapes the abuse of her father only to find more abuse in a pair of young men. “Wolves in the Marsh” is a story of a young boy, hunting alone and his self discovery. “Forky” is a haunting story of a man struggling with life after being released from prison. “Mountains” is a story of a waitress who betrays her lover, who is a war vet dealing with PTSD. In “White Trees, Hammer Moon” a man is wildly unprepared for a family camping trip, as his mind is occupied with his looming prison sentence. And finally ending with a young man's acceptance of an ending love affair in, “The Last Dance”. Andre Dubus uses clear, concise and to-the-point descriptions and language to tell his stories. In his story, “The Cage Keeper” his quick descriptions of the people around him and his tenderly mysterious characters paint a colorful portrait for his readers to walk around in. In “The Duckling Girl”, my heart broke for his character Lorilee. His messy descriptions made me queasy and anxious as he touches at something so sensitive for any female to read. Andre Dubus definitely has taken a liking to touching on sensitive topics, things that cause the most amount of tension for the reader and his characters; something to make you lose sleep. This is the story that affected me the most, maybe because in all his subtle language his words hit so hard. Maybe that is one of his faults, at least in my opinion; I found that this is not one of those books that I “can't put down”. In fact, in reading it I often found myself having to get up and walk away from it, finding the material too much to handle all in one sitting, but it did not fail to intrigue me. “Forky” tore me apart with the Dubus' emotional characters. His word choice and sentence structure like, “I turned and stuck it in his face and watched him turn to butter” contributes to a haunting narration of a man released from prison. He is so casual in his descriptions that it catches me off guard as a reader. “White Trees, Hammer Moon” was another favorite of mine because it was also so rich with emotion. The main character is being sent away to prison for a year and is camping with his family before hand. This story, again, is filled with such subtle emotion from the genuine characters Dubus creates. “The Last Dance” Was a little difficult for me to get into because I found all the dialogue to be overwhelming and difficult to read and understand. The characters weren't as relateable as I would have liked them to be. In “Mountains” I found myself hating the main character, Sally, mostly because I sympathized with Rick. I did not like what was happening and the story, beside that was really hard to get into. All in all Andre Dubus does a remarkable job at creating genuine characters, telling lively, tragic and heart-wrenching stories, and leaving a lasting impression.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Penny Burkhardt

    Some of the best writing and character development that I have read. The harsh conditions in each of these stories made many of them hard to read. Still that doesn't diminish their outstanding power. Some of the best writing and character development that I have read. The harsh conditions in each of these stories made many of them hard to read. Still that doesn't diminish their outstanding power.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Connie Hess

    Andre Dubus III is an excellent author. His books are never very uplifting and deal with sad realities of life. This is a book of short stories and some I found to be disturbing.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Hoyadaisy

    Probably my fault (not a short story enthusiast), not his, (he of "House of Sand and Fog" genius). Please do consider listening to his narration, though. Voice is compelling. Probably my fault (not a short story enthusiast), not his, (he of "House of Sand and Fog" genius). Please do consider listening to his narration, though. Voice is compelling.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lucy

    Disturbing & depressing. 7 short stories about people who had no hope or redemption.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Joey

    These stories still hold up to the test of time. White Trees, Hammer Moon still makes me feel squeamish.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Faller

    There is a moment in the title story of this collection that suggests the nature of Dubus III's interests as a writer and gives a glimpse into his fiction-writing strengths. The story's narrator, a young man named Allen who works as a corrections officer, is bagging up and tagging the personal belongings of one of the inmates who has run off without warning (the corrections institution resembles a half-way house for convicted felons, hardly a jail where the inmates are under lock and key and sub There is a moment in the title story of this collection that suggests the nature of Dubus III's interests as a writer and gives a glimpse into his fiction-writing strengths. The story's narrator, a young man named Allen who works as a corrections officer, is bagging up and tagging the personal belongings of one of the inmates who has run off without warning (the corrections institution resembles a half-way house for convicted felons, hardly a jail where the inmates are under lock and key and subject to the scrutiny of the guards). The runaway, an older man referred to through the story as Elroy, was somewhat of a rabble-rouser, and has written scathing letters criticizes both the administration and its guards, and Allen, somewhat skeptical and yet admiring of Elroy's attitude, sifts through texts as varied as George Orwell's 1984 and interracial pornographic magazines with varying degrees of insult and envy. This view of Elroy extends to Elroy's bed, which Allen notes is "impeccably made," as well as the bookcase beside it, which Allen had witnessed Elroy building, "his face [unchanged] from the constant tight-jawed looked it always has." After cinching the bags and preparing to leave the room he has just wiped clean of all traces of its former occupant, Allen notices "something [he] has never noticed before": a framed photograph of Elroy, a woman, and a young boy about fifteen or sixteen years of age. Each is dressed up, and Elroy is a much younger, much happier man "squinting into the sunshine with an actual, honest-to-God smiel on his face." The photograph warrants as much of a description as the Orwell book or the porno magazine, but it shocks Allen into a new awareness that blooms as the story progresses. As he leaves the room, bound eventually for his car and an encounter with the real Elroy, who will kidnap Allen and force him to drive to Canada where Elroy will make a new start, Allen has the temerity to sum up his reaction to the photo: "I didn't think that trolls got married." As I said before, this small moment represents the strengths of the collection as a whole. Not every one of the nine stories is perfect, but in each piece, there are moments in which Dubus slows down and zooms in on a particular gesture, a telling detail, a memory of a line of dialogue, attempting to probe the implications, to pry into the inner lives of characters whose emotions are larger written off as irrelevant, whose motives seem malicious and single-minded and easily condemnable. These are stories written in the tradition of Dubus III's father, who used fiction as the means to gain insight, to suggest, to intuit, to question the forces keeping people together, pushing them apart, the forces governing the kinds of thinking people do. These aren't always redemptive insights. As in Allen's case, thinking too narrowly about a dangerous man lands him in hot water. And in one story in Dubus III's collection, in which a young woman abused by her father and the two boys she turns to for help, the girl, Lorillee, gains insight into her relationships with these, and all, men: "Sometimes she will feel like spitting as she tastes their juices again and she will have to stand up and pace in her panties over the linoleum floor of her room, all of them becoming one insider her so that she in not seh at all but them, until it feels as if she has never been her but just a part of them that they have kept in their lives for whenever they needed to let things out, a dark and evil part." A story containing such a passage, which at first reads as misogynistic, cannot, and does not, end well for the girl. But ending well isn't so much the point as the fact that the realization has occured. Lorilee arrives at a truth that could perhaps enable to find the good in her situation, and to eventually emerge from that situation, if not stronger, than freer, wiser, and capable of making choices that are her own. It's a humane sort of story that results from such intense focus on the small gestures and what larger truths such gestures reveal. They are not always satisfying in their resolutions, but they suggest in their uneasy endings a kind of hope--that Lorilee will be able to make the right choice, leaving the men who've abused her in search of something better, brighter; that Allen will decide to think more deeply about his own grief and avoid falling into the same path of violence that doomed Elroy. You'll have to read the collection to know the shape of Allen's grief, to know Elroy's crime and his motivations. I hope I've encouraged you to do so.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Christina

    A collection of short stories by the author of House of Sand and Fog, The Cage Keeper and Other Stories delve into the actions, thoughts, and motives of criminals, ex-cons, and those who work in the criminal justice system, and into the lives of those who fall between in the cracks of society. In the title story, a halfway house worker is kidnapped by one of the inmates, Elroy, and forced to drive Elroy to Canada, to freedom. Along the way, Allen discovers why Elroy killed and as a result strugg A collection of short stories by the author of House of Sand and Fog, The Cage Keeper and Other Stories delve into the actions, thoughts, and motives of criminals, ex-cons, and those who work in the criminal justice system, and into the lives of those who fall between in the cracks of society. In the title story, a halfway house worker is kidnapped by one of the inmates, Elroy, and forced to drive Elroy to Canada, to freedom. Along the way, Allen discovers why Elroy killed and as a result struggles to come to terms with his role in keeping Elroy locked up. In "Duckling Girl," a teenager seeks relief from her sexually abusive father with two similarly abusive teenage boys. "Wolves in the Marsh" is about a young boy’s coming of age as he goes hunting alone. In "Forky," for which Dubus won a National Magazine Award for Fiction, an ex-con is haunted by abuse he suffers immediately upon being released from prison. "Mountains" is told from the viewpoint of Sally, a waitress, who loves a Vietnam vet with post traumatic stress syndrome. In "White Trees, Hammer Moon," a man finds himself unprepared for a family camping trip in New Hampshire while knowing he'll be headed to prison soon, and in the final short story, "Last Dance," tells the story of a young man excepting the end of an affair. Of the seven stories, there were only two I could really slip into -- "The Cage Keeper" and "Mountains" -- with the other five either not capturing my attention or failing to have characters I could understand. With those short stories I did enjoy, Dubus was great at delving into the thoughts and reasoning behind who his characters are and where they are coming from. And how can I not love that cover? It's so fitting as it echos the dark and foreboding nature of the tales and the movement of the characters. Anyways, as this is my first time reading a collection of short stories rather than an individual story, I hope this will not continue to be the case with every collection I read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Shonna Froebel

    This collection of stories focuses on characters living on the margins, many dealing with situations that are challenging. They are not always easy to read, but they feel real. The story The Cage Keeper's main character is a worker in a halfway house, a job he took on through family connections. When one of the inmates goes off the rails, he finds himself struggling to deal with the situation. Duckling Girl has two characters that end up connecting, a sad illiterate girl, abused and resigned to he This collection of stories focuses on characters living on the margins, many dealing with situations that are challenging. They are not always easy to read, but they feel real. The story The Cage Keeper's main character is a worker in a halfway house, a job he took on through family connections. When one of the inmates goes off the rails, he finds himself struggling to deal with the situation. Duckling Girl has two characters that end up connecting, a sad illiterate girl, abused and resigned to her life situation, and a man who takes a step away from his privileged life as he plans a life to help those in difficult situations. Wolves in the Marsh has a young boy who has a moment of personal growth as he hunts alone in the marsh near his home. Forky has a man recently released from prison, entering his first relationship since his release and dealing with his issues from his incarceration. Mountains is the account of a waitress, unhappy in her relationship with an ex-soldier struggling with PTSD, as she looks for an escape from her sadness. White Trees, Hammer Moon has a man who is about to go to prison taking his two estranged stepchildren on a camping trip as a farewell gesture before he leaves. Last Dance is the account of a night-time turtle hunt from a man doing this for the first time with an old friend and his mentor. Dubus's writing is casual and matter of fact, yet somehow brings the emotions to the fore. His reading of the book emphasized this, with his voice just reading on calmly despite the desperation and sadness the words evoked.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Booker

    Dubus III often explores characters from the underbelly of society. This collection has that, but also some of these same characters in a haunting, yet beautiful, natural world. Some of the pieces reminded me of a darker Pam Houston or Ron Carlson. Dubus is one of those authors that is gifted in both the novel and the shorter form, which is rare in my opinion. These stories are not for the feint of heart, but if you appreciate these, you'll appreciate Dubus' other works as well. Dubus III often explores characters from the underbelly of society. This collection has that, but also some of these same characters in a haunting, yet beautiful, natural world. Some of the pieces reminded me of a darker Pam Houston or Ron Carlson. Dubus is one of those authors that is gifted in both the novel and the shorter form, which is rare in my opinion. These stories are not for the feint of heart, but if you appreciate these, you'll appreciate Dubus' other works as well.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    A grim set of stories by a master at reminding us that EVERYONE has a story. Every single human being, even people we tend to dismiss as trash, druggies, criminals -- in fact, especially those people. These stories will open your heart and pour in compassion like disinfectant on a wound. It hurts, but it's good for you. A grim set of stories by a master at reminding us that EVERYONE has a story. Every single human being, even people we tend to dismiss as trash, druggies, criminals -- in fact, especially those people. These stories will open your heart and pour in compassion like disinfectant on a wound. It hurts, but it's good for you.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jkwilos

    The stories were so sad and dark but very well written. It reminded a bit too much of patients I have worked with. It is amazing how such a segment of society can be so ignored. I think it is wonderful that they were brought to life in this work.

  16. 5 out of 5

    David

    Dubus demonstrates an interesting talent for presenting highly emotional scenes that are at the same time cold and stark as many of his characters. The prose in these stories is gritty and visceral, appearing quite real. Though not always pleasant, these stories are good throughout.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Martha

    Some of these stories just try too hard. They were all gritty and I usually don't mind that, but the title story just didn't ring true for me. Some of these stories just try too hard. They were all gritty and I usually don't mind that, but the title story just didn't ring true for me.

  18. 5 out of 5

    n.

    Some of the stories were excellent, others were fair. Written in 1989, this book was the first published ( I think) by an author I love.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    He hasn't done me wrong yet He hasn't done me wrong yet

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kenneth Weene

    Powerfully written but ultimately depressing and filled with alcohol, leaving the reader somewhat numbed.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jacque Staub

    2.5 stars? mostly diluted denis johnson, but excellent 1st story.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Britanny

    dubus has an incredible way of capturing the character's voice. this book of short stories, each with a unique voice and tone, shows that dubus is a force to be reckoned with. dubus has an incredible way of capturing the character's voice. this book of short stories, each with a unique voice and tone, shows that dubus is a force to be reckoned with.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    The story ‘Forky’ is very good. The rest are rather tepid by comparison.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kathy D

    Andre is a superb writer. He is an artist with his ability to provide scenes so well you are walking and riding along with the characters. The Cage Keeper is a treasure of a story.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    Although I loved the House of Sand and Fog, I was very disappointed with these short stories.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sara

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

  28. 4 out of 5

    Tim

  29. 5 out of 5

    Buckaroo

  30. 5 out of 5

    Knox Bodenstein

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