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Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
11
God's Pocket
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon August 7, 2016
God’s Pocket isn’t as strong as Paris Trout. That isn’t surprising, since God’s Pocket was Pete Dexter’s debut novel. It is nevertheless a strong start to Dexter’s career as an award-winning author.

The novel begins with the death of Leon Hubbard. The police are told that the death was accidental but the reader and a handful of witnesses know that to be untrue. Over the next few days, the residents of God’s Pocket, a working class area in South Philadelphia, talk about what a great young man Leon was. Nothing could be less true, but it doesn’t pay to speak ill of the dead -- particularly in God’s Pocket, where everyone sticks together.

Leon’s step-father, Mickey, knows that Leon was a worthless psychopath. Mickey must do his best to appease Leon’s mother while finding a way to pay for the funeral -- gambling on the horses is one possibility, trying to get paid for his most recent truck hijacking is another. Nothing works out very well for Mickey or for his friend Bird, who is in financial trouble of his own due to a misunderstanding with the mob. Things aren’t much better for the undertaker, who refuses to bury Leon without payment in advance.

The novel’s other key character is a newspaper columnist, the celebrated voice of the common man, who hasn’t believed a word he’s written in at least ten years. He’s supposed to be writing about Leon’s death but he’s more inclined to woo Leon’s mother. She appreciates the attention even if it’s coming during what should be a time of mourning. The columnist and Leon’s mother are both coming unglued in their own ways.

Dexter gives the residents of God’s Pocket a believable group identity. They look out for each other even as they gossip about each other. They are suspicious of outsiders; they rarely leave God’s Pocket except for work; they feel downtrodden and misunderstood as they divide their time between the two neighborhood bars. Attention to local detail adds to the book’s authenticity.

Leon’s death and its true cause weave in and out of the plot, but the story is largely Mickey’s. The plot moves in unexpected directions but it always manages to be convincing. Several moments of dark humor lighten the mood. Perhaps too much attention is given to the columnist (a natural inclination for Dexter, who was himself a columnist) and not enough to the character who is most centrally involved in Leon’s death, but since that story is entertaining from beginning to end, I really can’t fault it. If I could, I would give God’s Pocket 4 1/2 stars.
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on March 7, 2014
This was a book I found in the oddest way.
I was staring to read another book and the author used a quote from God's Pocket at the beginning of the first chapter. I was so blown away by that single phrase that I immediately looked up the author and the book. I ordered it from Amazon and read it as soon as it arrived. I have to say, I don't think I have ever responded so completely to a single phrase before! This book was incredibly well written. What some people can do with written language remains a source of awe for me.
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on December 23, 2015
I loved the movie so much - have seen it at least 6 times - finally decided to find the author - Now have read "Paris Trout" (remember Gary Duval in the title role?), the collection of Pete's columns (don't recall the title right now, but they were hysterical, sad, touching), and of course, "God's Pocket". My being mostly Irish and having grown up with journalism, I especially enjoy Dexter's writings. I'm going to read everything he's done.
1 helpful vote
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on January 6, 2010
Its a must read page-flipper. It arrived yesterday and I finished it today. I've read most of Dexter's books and this is the pick of the litter.
7 helpful votes
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on October 11, 2014
Gritty...fun read. Will buy others from this author.
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on November 22, 2009
I wrote this last year for Forgotton Books at Pattinase. GP is back in print; there is a God.

GOD'S POCKET, like all Pete Dexter's novels, ends sans sunshine. Should Pete ever find a ray at the end, his sales would increase tenfold. I would read them three times instead of twice. I would still marvel at the sentences, at the characterizations, at the overwhelming sense of place, but I wouldn't feel like my mom forgot my birthday for the third year in a row.

Rereading Dennis Lehane's Mystic River, I have to believe his spectacular opening twenty years later pays homage to God's Pocket. Pete was living in South Philadelphia at the time and set the novel where he was, the same way I do mine. No, set is the wrong word, that's what I do. Drenched or soaked or maybe swallowed does God's Pocket justice; so lights-out, totally there that I knew this section of South Philadelphia in thirty pages like I know Chicago after fifty years. For my money, these two novels are the Old and New Testament if you want to read or write place as a character, urban America without the apologies or the fashion statements.

Style? The seamlessness of Elmore Leonard at his best, but with the bite of the early masters, the truth between the lines, slowly closing the doors, dimming the lights, walking you down an alley until you're naked and alone. If they ever find a vaccine for grinding, inevitable hopelessness, it will have been extracted from Pete's dead-on renditions.

Charlie Newton
Author: CALUMET CITY
18 helpful votes
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on December 21, 2006
This is a beautifully written story of a decent man, who happens to become a low level mob associate, retailing stolen meat. It has a fast moving plot, emotional power, and, at times, laugh out loud humor. The man is not much of a thinker, a "simple man", and the prose style tends to shorter sentences and paragraphs. The words are

well chosen, and there is a nuanced portrayal of the man's wife, and their relationship.

"God's Pocket" is the neighborhood where the couple lives. Dexter is very harsh on it, and I wouldn't blame someone from there for thinking Dexter was biased: not one of the neighborhood people is sympathetic. I would also have wished the newspaperman character was more sympathetic; he is a drunk, so his portrayal is believable, but like another reviewer, I am not convinced his character need have been written as it was.
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on August 26, 2014
Great book! Fantastic author! Dexter is one of the best alive.
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on August 3, 2005
I've read a lot of books in the line of city/street type fiction and Dexter has it down cold on the likes of Richard Price and even Pellecanos. It's a very lived in book and a very funny book and every single character is eerily believable. I can't understand why this book doesn't have more reviews. Hopefully readers just assume it speaks for itself, since it's as close as you can come to a classic. Wish he'd left the newspaper guy out though. The book is stronger than rockets without him.
15 helpful votes
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on December 17, 1999
God's Pocket is a tremendous book. A great look at an insular society and an outsider's mistake in trying to understand it.
11 helpful votes
12 helpful votes
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