Novelist Andre Dubus III wanted to write a book about a stripper. Instead he ended up telling a story about sordid events leading up to September 11, 2001.
At the center of the 535-page novel — The Garden of Last Days — sits Bassam, one of the 9/11 hijackers, who spent time at a Florida strip club four days before the attack. The story follows a few other characters as well, including a stripper who takes her child to work while she dances for the would be terrorist, a drunk patron, and an elderly landlady.
In a note to book reviewers, the author explains his motivation for telling this story:
In the weeks after that brutal September morning, we began to learn something of the hijackers. We learned that many of them had trained in Florida, that they'd been seen visiting strip clubs. This was confusing. How could these young men be self-described holy warriors but also frequent strip clubs? But what lingered for me even more than this was the image of cash on a bedroom bureau in Florida, money earned by a woman who'd danced for one or more of them.
Are you intrigued by the internal struggles of a 9/11 hijacker and the stripper who danced for him? Will this appeal for even minimal empathy change the way readers think about terrorism?