- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (May 12, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0316156493
- ISBN-13: 978-0316156493
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 54 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,249,342 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Way Home Hardcover – May 12, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Bestseller Pelecanos (The Turnaround) probes the volatile and fragile relationship between a father, Thomas Flynn, and his son, Chris, in this less than satisfying effort. As a rebellious teen into drugs, Chris had minor brushes with the law and did a stint in juvenile prison. Now 26, he's working for his father's D.C.-area carpet installation business and staying clean. Still, Thomas remains disappointed in his son's lack of achievement or ambition, and Chris remains resentful that he's not accepted for who he is. A rather tired device, a bag of stolen money found by Chris and a friend and fellow former inmate, serves to set in motion a chain of actions that will lead to critical decisions for both Flynns. Pelecanos adroitly sketches the obstacles and temptations that face juvenile offenders in and after prison, but this novel, with its dispassionate style, never manages to generate high suspense or evoke much sympathy for its characters. Author tour. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From The New Yorker
Notions of revenge, redemption, and justice fuel this thriller, set in Washington, D.C. After a stint in juvenile hall, Chris Flynn sets out to turn his life around, taking a job as a carpet installer for his father, a flooring supplier, despite their contentious relationship. When Chris and a friend find fifty thousand dollars hidden beneath the floorboards at a job site, they must contend with a pair of sadistic ex-cons eager to reclaim the money, stolen during a jewelry heist years earlier. Despite its hard-charging elements, the story unfolds almost languidly, and it is clear that Pelecanos, a seasoned novelist and a writer for “The Wire,” means to provoke more than quickened heartbeats. His passionate advocacy for juvenile-prison reform—and his well-reasoned argument that a poorly run system can punish petty offenders far more severely than their crimes merit—occasionally turns the plot into a polemic.
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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.
The Way Home Describes very poignantly all the angst working class fathers have over their sons - particularly their fear they will inevitably get into trouble (working class families harbor similar fears that their daughters will get pregnant). Pelecanos also vividly describes the typical hard headed stubbornness that prevents working class fathers from communicating with their sons at a point where they might still keep them out of jail. In doing so he re-creates very clearly the real life tragic flaws that play out repeatedly in working class families. The parents' fear and defensiveness only increases the inevitability of the dreaded outcome.
This is not a typical mystery or crime novel. The reader knows from the outset who the murderer is, and the detective work is carried out by an ordinary working class stiff who knows he is the next intended victim.
Although the target audience is clearly older adults, Pelecanos also has a gift for capturing the language in which adolescents think and speak. This also added to my enjoyment of the book.
By Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall, author of THE MOST REVOLUTIONARY ACT: MEMOIR OF AN AMERICAN REFUGEE
What is amazing is that he sustains the quality of his fiction while being so prolific. The Way Home is another amazing novel, featuring conflicted characters and their relationships and an impossible situation that goes from bad to worse.
The "bad guys" in this one really stood out for me. I really got a feel for them, even a liking of sorts.
The only thing I miss is some old Pelecanos characters I'd like to see show up more often...and that's not a complaint--Pelecanos creates these people who resonate with the reader, people we feel we know or could know. The author has a subtle way about his prose which is, at times, hard bitten and a nod to the genre, but to dismiss this as mere genre fiction is to miss one of the best things going in American letters.
And Pelecanos obviously has an ear to the street, from the cars, the music, the slang, everything feels right, all feels real. Another excellent book from a great American writer!