Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Book Review of The Way Home by George Pelecanos

This review is long overdue - The Way Home by George Pelecanos was one of the books that President Obama brought when he visited the Cape this summer. I had started the book months ago but as the suspense grew, I had to pause. When I finally returned to The Way Home, I read it all in one sitting.

The Way HomeThe blurb:
Christopher Flynn is trying to get it right. After years of trouble and rebellion that enraged his father and nearly cost him his life, he has a steady job in his father's company, he's seriously dating a woman he respects, and, aside from the distrust that lingers in his father's eyes, his mistakes are firmly in the past.

One day on the job, Chris and his partner come across a temptation almost too big to resist. Chris does the right thing, but old habits and instincts rise to the surface, threatening his newfond stability with sudden treachery and violence. With his father and his most trusted friends, he takes one last chance to blast past the demons trying to pull him back.

Like Richard Price and William Kennedy, Pelecanos pushes his characters to the extremes, their redemption that much sweeter because it is so hard-won. Pelecanos has long been celebrated for his unerring ability to portray the conflicts men feel as they search and struggle for power and love in a world that is so often harsh and unforgiving but can ultimately be filled with beauty.

The Way Home draws you in quickly and deeply. I couldn't help but sympathize with and become invested in what happened to Chris Flynn and his friend Ben Braswell. Complex and flawed, Chris comes across so clearly and authentically. His regret, his uncertainty and his desire to change make Chris one of the most interesting characters that I've come across in a while. Unlike most of his fellow inmates in the juvenile detention center, Chris came from a supportive middle class family. Upon his release, his parents rallied around him and celebrated his return. They helped train him, find gainful employment and gave him the sense that his life can continue to improve. Part of Chris's sense of disquiet comes from the difference between himself and his fellow inmates. He recognizes that his good fortune and he tries to behave decently to those around him. Chris's best friend Ben had a very different background. Ben's mother had died young from a drug overdose and he'd been in various foster homes until he entered juvenile detention. But since having been released, working for Flynn's Floors with Chris, and with his love of reading, Ben had moved beyond the dark places of his past and "looked forward to learning something new each day."

The difficult and complicated relationship between Chris and his father Thomas Flynn of Flynn's Floors adds to the complexity and richness of the story. Carefully crafted with the numerous plot twists and unusual characters, The Way Home an unpredictable and satisfying read.

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (May 12, 2009), 336 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author, courtesy of the publisher:
George Pelecanos is an independent-film producer, an essayist, the recipient of numerous international writing awards, a producer and an Emmy-nominated writer on the HBO series The Wire, and the author of a bestselling series of novels set in and around Washington D.C.

A huge thank you to Miriam and to Hatchette Book Group for this review opportunity!

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