To begin, I would like to state my personal purpose of writing this review / criticism. I have read two works from Paul Auster so far, and after finishing each one I felt intensely crazy mostly due to sympathy for the destiny / final mood of the protagonist. After finish the last of the two, "Sunset Park", I feel obliged to express my emotions in order to reduce the intensity of the thoughts in my head.
Anyhow, Sunset park is not a story. It is several stories, mostly describing and developing several characters and their lifelong experiences up to the point the story ends. It is very compact, in that it is able to focus on development of so many characters and somehow looking to the story from their side of view.
The fifth business (the character who relates all the characters in the story and holds the body of the story) is Miles Hillard, the son of Mars Hillard, publisher of Hillard books. Like many other works of his, Auster keeps the protagonist related to literature, not only through his father, but also through his own deep understanding of some literature.
Another repeating element of the story is baseball. Seem Auster being jew, can not write a piece of work having a protagonist uninterested in baseball. Auster has declared in a couple of interviews that although his protagonists are not himself, but they are influenced similarly to the experiences Auster had himself.
Miles Hillard, 28 years old, has ran away from his family for 7 years now, for the reasons that relate to death of his step-brother and his role in the accident that killed him.
Now, after seven years, he is coming back to New York, the city where he is from (and again, the city where tends to be the setting of many of Auster's stories). It was an obligation for him to return, due to some other events that relate to his underage girl friend in Florida, who he loves and is going to marry. Hence, he did not originally return to give an end to his break up with his original family.
In New York, he settles in an abandoned house whose is intruded by several interesting people, one of which is his high school friend, who invited him there. People who live in "Susnet Park" house, happen to be very insightful people, one into art, another literature.
Consequently, three characters who live in that house also become subject of attention, exploring their whole life, how they got there, and who they really are. The compactness of the book is to the extent that the reader feel to know them, as the secondary characters, almost as much as the protagonist himself.
As well, after Miles arrives in New York, characters and lives of his father, mother, and step mother are also revealed to the reader through the omniscient narrator. Again, having a total of at least five characters beside the antagonist very developed, gives an idea as how compact the novel is and how the author takes the best use of space.
The end, however, is unexpected. One could aruge it is not unexpected of Auster's. Being the second work read from him, it was unexpected for me, specially since I was listening to the tracks, not having the book realizing I am reaching the last pages! In the end, there is a sense of suspense, somewhat relating to the begining of the story, some sense of hopelessness, absurdism, and a dark existential wrapping up. You don't feel the story wrapped up though, cause you are left in some state of semi-suspense. You know there is more that should have been indicated about the end, but you can not know how the author prefers you to imagine the final end.
Maybe the end is to make you rather careless about the story than crazy about it. Maybe it wants you to focus on the emotions passed through the story than the plot itself, the content, the philosophical questions of where did I start and where am I landing? and how sad is the whole question, the whole story, the whole beginning and end.
One final thing I want to say about this novel, it conveyed me the whole sadness of the lifelong pain not one, but several thoughtful humans could have.