Saturday, March 6, 2010

Review: "The Way Home" by George Pelecanos

Every so often I take a chance and read something outside of my preferred genres. In this case it was George Pelecanos' The Way Home, which is essentially a thriller. In this case I'm glad that I took a chance on something different, because this book had more of an impact on me than I could have anticipated.

Christopher Flynn has landed himself in juvenile detention for many reasons, but primarily because he's selfish and he doesn't seem to care about anyone but himself. His mother hasn't given up on him, but his father, who is unable to admit that Chris' actions are likely a result of his own parenting style, has. Chris seems to have given up on himself.

Fast forward a couple of years and Chris is back in the free world, determined not to lapse back in to his old ways. He's working as a carpet installer for his dad and he's working with Ben, one of his former jail buddies, who now walks the straight and narrow path himself. Chris and Ben find something in a house that they are installing carpet in, and Chris recognizes that by touching it he could get himself and Ben in a lot of trouble that they wouldn't welcome. I can't say much more without giving essential plot pieces away, but someone decides to touch this particular item and trouble is attracted to it like a magnet.

Pelecanos has written an exciting thriller with heart. What captured me about this book in the beginning was the story of Chris, a boy who has everything that he could possibly need yet continues to fight with deep-down unhappiness, leading to his actions and eventually his arrest. At this point the book is not a thriller, but more of a social commentary. The thriller aspect is introduced to the book gradually and before I knew it the plot was action-packed.

The Way Home reminded me a little of The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb in the sense that both authors were telling stories, but they were also commenting on the failures of our justice system. As exciting as the thriller portion of the book was, it was the descriptions of life inside of a jail cell and how the system discourages rehabilitation in its own way that stuck with me after the last page had been turned.

This was ultimately a satisfying book, one that will encourage me to seek out more of Pelecanos' novels, and one that made me glad that I took a chance and read something different.

Thank-you to Miriam at The Hachette Book Group for this review copy!

Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Recommended to: Thriller lovers, fans of TV's "The Wire" (Pelecanos both writes for and produces the show)
Challenges: 2010 100+ Reading Challenge, New Author Challenge 2010

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