Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Review: "The Way Home" by George Pelecanos

George Pelecanos is one of those writers who I do not think can write a bad book, maybe he can write a book that I do not like as much as his other novels, but they will always be something I look forward to reading even if the experience is not astounding. I am glad to say that the latest book of his I have read, The Way Home, is not only not one of those sub-par outings every writer, good or bad, has, but probably his most intimate and enriching story. Of the three crime writers who wrote for The Wire, with Dennis Lehane bringing heart into his stories about violence, Richard Price bringing societal issues into crime stories (which may be why I may not like him as much as I thought I would, but I still have plenty of books of his to read), Pelecanos always brought into his stories a great narrative drive that can propel even the most mundane and played out plot device careening off the rails, leaving the reader transfixed. Out of the three authors, he is the one most likely to write a book you can read in a day. This novel is a bit different than the other two books I read. There is very little interaction with cops or criminals (unless you count the small-time ones), and the thing that is at stake is not a mystery as to who killed who, but the soul of a person on the brink of a very drastic life choice. Chris Flynn-high school dropout, perennial letdown to his father, Thomas, is fresh out of a stay in juvenile hall and with Ben, an inmate he met inside, working in his father’s carpentry business. He finds something that he knows is bad news, and with his newfound sense of morality and apprehension, he leaves it where it is and tries to not give it a second thought. But Ben, a slow, but good-hearted man, decides to tell another one of former inmate of theirs, Lawrence, who sets off a chain reaction that can lead to the spiritual or physical death of everyone involved. The real seed of suspense lies in the first 100 or so pages which lead up to this decision, where we get to know Chris as a lost soul who seemingly has control over everything except his own self-control. He matures while in prison, but must make a decision that can cost him and his possible future the chance to develop and find a place in this world. Like I said, this book is never boring, even in its quitter moments, but has a few key scenes of violence, including one involving the two main bad guys that may be the most harrowing scene of brutality Pelecanos has written so far (or of what I have read so far). This book is perfect for any day over the holidays when you are stuck inside and want to be swept up in a story for at least one day.
Rating: 5/5

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