Thursday, October 18, 2012

Review: "Coronado" by Dennis Lehane

It is funny since I just got finished saying that crime writers do not write good short story collections, because Dennis Lehane’s slim collection Coronado, is a truly great collection of stories. Having also just written a glowing review of Shutter Island, I find it a little hard to repeat myself as to why this guy is so great, so I will just stick to the stories and why I find them to be among the best I have read all year. They take place in many different places, amongst many different kinds of people, and take on the air of a more gritty and dirty Flannery O’ Conner. They speak about real people we can easily picture amongst our communities and puts them in scary, sometimes immoral situations that will forever change them, for good and bad. I am glad to say that out of the five of these stories, only one was just good. Each of the other four brings Lehane’s astounding talent to the forefront. The first story, and my favorite, “Running Out of Dog”, shows a small community of people who have grown up together, easily falling into both appealing and unappealing roles. One character is sleeping with the girl his awkward, disturbed best friend has loved his whole life. But we all know he is never going to have her as his own, even though the girl’s husband beats her. As our narrator says, he is to soft for such a cruel world, and ends up reacting in a way that ruins every good persons life. “Going Down to Corpus” deals with a group of recent high school graduates, who go to trash a teammates house, because he lost the game for them, and he is going to college and they are not. They end up meeting the guys older, troubled sister, and the main character forms an odd bond with her as they swap stories and break into, but not rash, an even bigger house of one her former friends. “Mushrooms”, the shortest story in this collection, is a simple story of revenge being taken, and how the uselessness and brutality of it does nothing but cause more misery to those who perpetrated it. Finally, the last story, and the story this collection was built around, “Until Gwen”, shows the power of memory and promises. After a guy gets out of prison, he and his morally bankrupt father, go about finding a stash of money he stored after the robbery he was arrested for. He misses his girlfriend, Gwen, dearly and it is her thoughts that keep him going, even when the truth is revealed about what kind of man his father is, leading to an ending that is sad, but conclusive. This is just an awesome collection of short stories by a writer who I have yet to read a book from that was less than outstanding. If you are looking for a gateway into the work of Dennis Lehane, this is a perfect way to start.
Rating: 5/5

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