This was an interesting book. The story revolves around Chris Flynn. A boy who came from a good, middle class family, made choices – the wrong ones – and ends up in a prison for teenagers. His father, Thomas Flynn – a man who had worked to create his successful business without a college education also made choices – bad ones. Choices about how he spoke to and dealt with Chris; how he coped with the situation with his son personally and internally. After Chris is released from prison he works for his father laying carpets. He finds a bag stuffed with money. Another choice. And the novel hinges on this choice and the consequences which follow. Interestingly, Pelecanos also shows the consequences of making the right choices.
The novel raises interesting questions about the father / son dynamic. There is an interesting line which says:
It was true what some folks said: When your kid is a failure, your life has been a failure (pg 62)
Thomas Flynn struggles with the fact that his son’s failure is his failure; that regardless of what else he achieves in life, his son’s failure means his life HAS been a failure – his desire to see his son do BETTER than him and yet in fact, his son seems to do worse. And Chris Flynn, who has tried to live up to his fathers expectation but realizes he can’t and gives up trying.
Where do you look to and in what do you base your criteria for success. Of course Pelecanos is not a christian but his underlying answer is not to base it in or find it in your children, or in your parents. We fail. We disappoint. And this is another area this book touches.
There is also a strong statement on friendship. Chris’ closest relationships are with some of those he did time with – his best friend is murdered, and even the one boy whom he hated in prison turns out to be his savior.
Cryptic? I am not going to give spoilers for this book – it is a good read – well written, interesting topics which are deftly dealt with – even to the last paragraph which took the wind out of me as I came to the end of the book. Not all good endings remain good endings, and Pelecanos brings this out wonderfully in his final paragraph.