Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Review: The Way Home

Summary: 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 newfound stability with sudden treachery and violence. With his father and his most trusted friends, he takes one last chance to blast 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 often harsh and unforgiving but can ultimately be filled with beauty. -- Little, Brown and Company

Last year when I was visiting the Washington DC area, I saw signs all over the Metro for George Pelecanos' new book THE TURNAROUND. I remember thinking that the book looked like one that I'd enjoy. So when I found out that Mr. Pelecanos was going to be on a BlogTalk Radio talking about his latest book THE WAY HOME, I figured that I should read a few of his novels as a way to prepare for the show. I decided to work backwards and read his newest novel THE WAY HOME first.

I enjoyed THE WAY HOME and I definitely think it will appeal to a lot of people -- especially men. (I am planning on passing my book to Booking Pap Pap because I think it's a book that he will find entertaining.) I liked the story with its themes of forgiveness, redemption, and especially rehabilitation; however, I thought the best thing about this book was how Mr. Pelecanos developed all of the characters. The men in this story were very complex as were their relationships with each other, but I couldn't help but feel that they were all very realistic. While these men were definitely rough around the edges, I still thought they were very human and I liked that the author managed to show their positive traits. Things weren't always black and white in this novel, and I found myself often times questioning what's good versus what's evil.

One thing that I found interesting about this novel was that it explored the relationships between fathers and sons. I often times read novels with mother/daughter themes; however, I can't really remember a book that delved into fathers and sons the way this book did. I thought Mr. Pelecanos did an excellent job of showing how Chris' father set expectations for Chris to be a tough guy and how Chris responded to this pressure -- he rebelled. I think it's true of many people that when they feel that they can't meet expectations, they give up or worse act out. I liked how Chris and his father eventually came to respect each other and have an improved relationship.

As I read this novel, I found myself shaking my head at some of the conditions in the juvenile detention facility. It's pretty obvious to me that what we are doing isn't fixing the problems. I read somewhere that the author did a great deal of research on these facilities and wanted to show the readers that our current system is not working. I appreciated that he tried to voice his concerns in this novel; and I commend him for bringing some attention to these problems.

Many of you might recognize the name George Pelecanos because he has written many crime books in the last 17 years; however, his name also might be familiar because he is the Emmy-nominated writer of The Wire. He has a fascinating bio, and it's pretty clear that he often times draws from his experiences when writing his novels. I really enjoyed his writing style and development of characters, and I liked the fast pace of the book. THE WAY HOME (and I think all of his books) took place in DC and its suburbs; so as a one-time resident of that area, I appreciated his attention to details about the city. I actually think he captured the "feel" of that area so well that DC became another (well-developed) character in this book.

I realize that THE WAY HOME is not going to appeal to everyone; however, I definitely enjoyed it and recommend it. The characters were real and extremely well developed, and the writing was very good. I am so glad to say that I am a fan of Mr. Pelecanos and can't wait to read more of his work.

Thanks to Hachette Book Group for sending me this ARC.


bermudaonion said...

Excellent review, Julie! You always manage to say things so well. This book made me think about our rehabilitation system too.

Jenn's Bookshelves said...

What a wonderful review! I'm glad you enjoyed it. I was a criminal justice major so the rehabilitation system, and it's need for "revamping" is something I'm very interested in.

Beth F said...

Great review. I really need to read this one. It's on my TBR

Unknown said...

I added this book to my TBR list, thanks for the review.
Happy Earth Day. :)

Belle | MsBookish said...

Great review. You're so right - I can't think of any book, actually, that I've read that touches on the father/son relationship. Lots of mother/daughter themes, yes, but not father/son. This one sounds interesting.

Nicole said...

I really enjoy character-driven books. It would be interesting to read about father/son relationships. I think I'll add this one to my TBR.

Katrina said...

I am in the process of listening to this, it is amazing. You did a great job with your review, not revealing too much but letting us know about some of the central themes and thoughts on the book.