Friday, April 28, 2023

Book Review: "Small Mercies" by Dennis Lehane

Man oh man, this guy can write.

I’ve been a fan of Dennis Lehane’s since his first book, A Drink Before the War, utterly blew me away. I’ve loved so many of his books—Gone Baby Gone, Shutter Island, and of course, Mystic River, which is an all-time favorite of mine. (And an excellent movie, too.)

Although highly anticipated books by favorite authors have been hit or miss for me this year, Lehane’s newest book was definitely a home run for me.

“That’s what ghosts are—they’re testaments to what never should have happened and must be fixed before their spirits leave this world.”

It’s the summer of 1974. A heat wave is mercilessly punishing Boston, and everyone is on edge. But it’s not just the heat causing temperatures to rise—the forced desegregation of Boston schools is about to happen, and almost no one is happy about it.

Mary Pat Fennessy was born and bred in the housing projects of Southie, where she has raised two kids of her own. She’s struggling financially and she’s always been at least a little bit angry, a little bit proud, and, like most of her neighbors, at least a little bit racist.

One night, her 17-year-old daughter, Jules, doesn’t come home. That same night, a young Black man is found dead in a nearby subway station, apparently struck by a train. Are the two events interconnected?

The longer Jules is missing, the more suspicious Mary Pat becomes. And then she decides to get to the bottom of the matter herself—no matter whom she angers or what trouble she causes. Her nothing-to-lose, don’t-give-a-damn attitude and actions set off a powder keg in a city already on edge.

This is a tense (and intense), sometimes sad, and tremendously thought-provoking book. Mary Pat isn’t trying to be a hero; she just wants to figure out what happened to her daughter. And at the same time, she’s realizing how the way she was raised and the way she raised her children might have played a factor in all that occurred.

This will make one heck of a movie.