I received The Given Day by Dennis Lehane through Library Thing’s Early Reviewers. I was really excited because Dennis Lehane is the author of Mystic River, and while I didn’t read the book, I thought the movie was incredible.
Last Saturday, Dave and I rented the movie Gone Baby Gone, not knowing it was based on a book by Dennis Lehane. When I realized who had written the book, I was stoked! After watching that film, I wanted to immediately go to Borders and buy every single book Mr. Lehane has ever written. Wow. I was blown away by the dialogue (you’ll see a theme with that), the storyline, the moral dilemma…everything, really.
Getting back to The Given Day…this opens in late 1918 with a scene featuring Babe Ruth stumbling upon a group of “coloreds” playing baseball. Amazed by their abilities, he stops to watch and is soon joined by other teammates who challenge these black men to a game. When it becomes clear that the black men will beat the professional baseball players, Ruth’s teammates start cheating, intentionally calling a runner safe when he was clearly out. This game is indicative of the rest of the story…rules can be changed on the whim of one person, depending on who has the power.
I don’t even know how I’m going to tell you about this book. There is SO MUCH going on, and yet it’s easy to keep everything straight. I have NO IDEA how the author pulled this off, and even though the Cast of Characters is listed at the beginning of the book (’cause there’s a buttload of peeps in this book), I only had to reference it once. Because The Dude is THAT GOOD at telling a story.
SO, there’s this guy, Danny Coughlin, and he’s a copper with the Boston Police Department. The poor cops haven’t had a raise since 1903…it’s now 1918, and the year before saw 76% inflation. Cops were below poverty level and protecting this lame town that won’t even pay cops enough to feed their kids. And Danny…oh, Danny. He fell in love with Nora, who is Danny’s parents servant (for lack of a better word), but when he found out she still had a husband back in Ireland, he dropped her like a hot potato, ’cause being with a married woman isn’t respectable. It’s slightly more complicated and Danny’s kind of a doofus to dump her without hearing her out but oh well the damage is done. In the meantime, Danny’s attending all these meetings, some for anarchists that the police are trying to infiltrate, some for the coppers who are thinking of forming a union and he gets all caught up with the union bidness…his life is crazy complicated.
And that’s only part of the story!
Then there’s this other guy, Luther, who has a wife that’s preggers and he’s not really into THAT ’cause he’s young and dumb and still wants to have fun, and he has a friend who’s REALLY dumb and gets involved in drugs and owes this big guy lots of money and eventually this big guy comes to collect…and there’s lots of blood spilled and it ain’t pretty. Luther goes home and tells his wife and she tells him to get the hell out, which he does, and ends up in Boston. In Boston, his path intersects with Danny’s ’cause he works for Danny’s parents.
SO, in amongst all this is: the Spanish Influenza pandemic, corrupt people from very high up to regular ol’ Joes, nice decent people, Babe Ruth’s story, and real history about the Boston Police Department strike.
What kicked ass about this novel? The dialogue. The freaking dialogue. I don’t know if Dennis Lehane records himself talking or what, but he makes his dialogue so real, so gritty, that I would just like to know how he does it.
And the story! Oh, the story, in it’s amazing complicatedness, is so easy to follow and so packed. Dennis Lehane gives John Steinbeck a run for his money.
And yet there’s so much to talk about: the strike, human nature, right and wrong. What can I say other than: LOVED IT LOVED IT LOVED IT.
Rating: 98 out of 100
Has anyone else read any other books by Dennis Lehane? What did you think?