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The Turnaround Hardcover – Bargain Price, August 1, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In yet another gem of urban noir, bestseller Pelecanos (The Night Gardener) explores the possibility of making the turnaround, of starting over and building a new life, regardless of the past. One summer day in 1972, three teenage white boys—Alex Pappas and his friends Billy Cachoris and Pete Whitten—drive into a poor Washington, D.C., neighborhood, high on booze and weed, looking for trouble. They confront three young black men, Billy winds up dead and Alex badly beaten. In 2007, Alex runs the family coffee shop, as did his father, and grieves for his son, recently killed in Iraq. Then, one of the black survivors of the incident contacts Alex, opening a door that may finally put the trauma of the past to rest. At the same time, another survivor, the man who beat Alex, has gotten out of prison and has extortion on his mind. The result is a beautifully written and thought-provoking novel of crime, friendship, aging and redemption. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From Bookmarks Magazine
While some may see shades of Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities in Pelecanos’s plot—both deal with the after effects of a racially charged incident in the inner city—in reality they have little in common. Critics all commended Pelecanos’s ethos and his focus on what it means to be a man in modern America, rich and poor and white and black. Some praised the experience he gained writing for the HBO series The Wire, which focused on the problems of people a lot like those in The Turnaround. There was the occasional hint that the repeated focus on What It Means to Be a Man bordered on annoying, but if anyone can use the mystery novel as a vehicle for introspection and spiritual longing, it’s Pelecanos.
Copyright 2008 Bookmarks Publishing LLC
Top customer reviews
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He certainly understands so much about the nature of urban problems. I loved this book because it was ultimately about redemption, forgiveness, the stupidity of youth, and the balance of joy and pain.
On a personal note, it was kind of spooky for me to read because I remember 1972 so clearly growing up in NYC. I was 19. He captured the mood of the times. I loved it that he included the Stones in the book. I did see the Stones at Madison Square Garden with Stevie Wonder in 1972. I remember that we had to send in postcards to be part of a lottery in order to be able to buy tickets. I believe "Exile" came with postcards in the album. I too sat and read the liner notes and studied the art while listening to the album. Pelecanos even described my situation at home. My mom died of breast cancer and my dad remarried and everything became hard for me. How can an author write so well that the reader relives their youth? Yet he does it and does it well. Then he segues to the present and the reader is now relating to the same character years later because the reader is also older. Another freaky moment is that his characters were the brothers Alex and Matthew and I have two art students who are brothers with the same names. Thank you Mr. Pelecanos. Not only did you write an amazing story with fantastic story arcs, believable characters who bring compassion to the reader, you hit some very personal nerves in this reader. Thank you. If I were the new president I would want you on my committee regarding urban matters. You really understand the problems and why they happen.
I enjoyed this and will be reading more GP books in the future.
I especially appreciated the lack of stereotypically idiotic plot points that would have been in a book like this if a lesser author had written it. In dumb novels, smart, successful people do incredibly dumb things and will do even dumber things to cover them up, and it is trivially easy to take advantage of them. That does happen, but not normally. Successful people often earned their success by not being stupid and impulsive, and they have resources available to them that the would-be predator generally does not. Contrast this with Tripwire, which is full of such plot contrivances.
My only real complaint is that the characters are a little too simple. They're good or evil, or just plain dumb. There are shades of gray, but the author's moral view is a little too obvious and it gets in the way of making the characters real and complex. Still, it's not terrible in this regard, and it's well worth reading.
If this book has a flaw it is that it veers a little close to sentimentality in its ending, but it does so in such a satisfying way that you feel churlish for objecting. People do, after all, redeem themselves once in a while.
The Turnaround is a remarkable book, extremely well written, with dead-on characterizations of the types of individuals involved, all while avoiding stereotypes. The plot is well crafted and yes, some readers may figure out a couple of key points halfway through, but this does not take away from Pelecanos' revealing the key points of the story himself.
One thing I really like about his stuff is things don't usually end the way you'd expect them to, or the way they would if he was being formulaic. The fate of Charles Baker in this novel exemplifies this. That is how stuff happens in real life and that is why Pelecanos' works pack the punch they do.
If you haven't read Pelecanos this is a good book to start with. If you are a Pelecanos fan already, you will not be disappointed with The Turnaround!