Sun House by David James Duncan

Profound beyond words with advice and guidance to healing the earth and our relationship with it, finding peace and truth in ourselves and others this book should be read by everyone.

Sun House by David James Duncan
Little, Brown & Co.
Hardcover | $35
Shop Indies!

I usually try to keep my personal comments to a minimum in my reviews, but in this case it cannot be avoided, so here we go. This book caused me to be ashamed, inspired, enlightened, encouraged, saddened, enraged, spiritually challenged, elated, exalted, amused and reassured. Ashamed to not have done more with my life to make the world better. Inspired to view reality differently in ways that will improve things for others. Enlightened about new ways of thinking. Encouraged that there are such ways that can be effective. Saddened that so much of progress must be gained through suffering. Enraged at what our species is doing and will do to our home planet. Spiritually challenged to overcome inertia and mundane thinking to find enlightenment. Elated to discover so much good advice for all of us. Exalted into new spaces in the cosmos. Amused in gentle and meaningful ways about human nature. And finally, reassured that there is hope for humankind.


It is the most comprehensive view of our world, ourselves and our direction to be placed in my path in, perhaps, my entire life. There are aspects of revolutionary Christianity, Buddhism, Vedic wisdom and agnostic philosophy. The author has created an entirely new proposed religion; Dumpster Catholicism. I will not try to explain it or what is meant by “dumbsaint notes”, except to say that they will likely strike resonant chords in many readers. We are given an explanation of the notion that we are all floating in a consciousness known as “Ocean” that directs our lives if we will subsume our selves and allow it to show the way.


Several parallel stories which wander far apart but come together eventually in a profound and meaningful way offer a roadmap for finding truth and, with hard work, sincerity and luck, peace. Each of the characters has a unique set of experiences and attitudes but they all reach the same crossroads and find themselves on the same path in the end. The directions offered include dealing not only with life, happiness and fulfillment but also suffering and death and how all these things have their meaning in discovering the correct way. This book can be a sort of bible for the next generations, and this one, too.


As social commentary it is biting and prescriptive, offering a possible way to salvation in spite of our propensity toward self-destruction. As an antidote to that self-destruction it suggests self-effacement and, in fact, the attempt to annihilate self entirely from our inner world, the opposite of Ayn Rand’s advice. This novel could be the foundation of an academic program, a religious movement, a social template or all of the above. It is an astoundingly comprehensive view of human consciousness that gathers fruit from numerous theologies, historical figures, philosophical beliefs and basic human common sense. It is my belief that everyone should read this at some time and be ready to accept what it has to offer freely and without judgement. The world would surely be a better place for it.


I hear echoes of Ken Kesey, James Morrow and Mary Doria Russell and others too broadly spread to cite. There is great humor, crushing pathos, mind-expanding thinking and a prescription for finding peace and justice in a world where neither is valued enough to seek their enshrinement. As we laugh out loud at passages we are simultaneously prodded to seek our own liberation from stilted ideas and self-delusion. The notion of annihilating self to find oneself recurs with regularity, reinforcing one of the principal themes: finding everything in nothingness. We are urged to reject modern cultural imperatives as well as historical constrictions to achieve a place in a higher plane while existing in the common dirt of the earth we share. Nirvana in a dirt-floored room.