Last year, Dennis Lehane, award-winning author of best-selling novels like Shutter Island, A Given Day, Gone Baby Gone, and Mystic River, came to town as part of an Authors’ series put on by our library. I confess. While my husband has read many of Lehane’s books, I hadn’t gotten around to it. Crime stories, mysteries, thrillers and the like, mostly sit at the bottom of my TBR pile. (Remember, I’m a chicken.) But this guy is from Boston, writes about my world, and when they announced he was coming to speak last spring, I was curious. I mean, he writes best sellers, AND they get turned into block-buster movies.
To convince myself I wasn’t some kind of celebrity-stalker, before he came I went to the library, but with all the press about his pending visit, none of his novels were available. I had to settle for a book of his short stories. Sigh. I don’t read short stories much either. But in this case, I did, and it took me about one paragraph to understand why this guy is so successful. Oh baby, can he write. Why I didn’t march right out and buy of all of his books, well, I don't know…I just didn’t…even after he spoke in our high school auditorium and proved he can captivate with his voice, every bit well as with his pen…
Ugh. Long lead up there. In December, I picked up a stack of used book at a sale put on by a local church. They’ve been sitting in a paper bag in my bedroom, and when I finally got toward the bottom of the pile last week, I found Prayers for Rain by Dennis Lehane.
But still, I had this hesitation. It’s just not the kind of book I usually read. Fanning the pages, I said to my husband. “I’m going to start this, but if it doesn’t suck me right in, I’m giving it to the library.” Well, no worries, mate. That thing slurped me up like an industrial vacuum cleaner on steroids… all four hundred and sixty pages of it.
Holy, moly. What have I been missing? If you want a lesson in voice? Read Dennis Lehane. If you want a lesson in setting? Read Dennis Lehane. If you want twists and turns that surprise you, and bombshells that get you again, read Dennis Lehane. If you want a book that holds you in its clutches until the very last line, and hangs on even when you are done, this is the guy for you.
The story was, at times, tough, and yes, the things I suppose I was afraid of, blood and guts and gore, appeared as I expected. But instead of offending my delicate sensibilities, all they did was drag me further into the fiction, because it was written so well. Oh, the stakes.
And the humor. Don’t forget the humor, Liza…in passages like this:
The priest who presided over the noon mass at Saint Dominick of the Sacred Heart Church acted like he had tickets for the Sox game at one. Father McKendrick strode up the front aisle at the stroke of twelve with two altar boys who had to jog to keep pace. He riffled through the greeting, penitential rite, and opening prayer like his Bible was afire. He zipped through Paul’s Letter to the Romans as if Paul drank too much coffee. By the time he slammed through the Gospel According to Luke and waved the parishioners to sit, it was seven past noon and most of the people in pews looked wiped…Two minutes flat. The fastest sermon I’d ever witnessed. Father McKendrick definitely had Red Sox tickets.The parishioners looked dazed, but happy. The only thing good Catholics love more than God is a short service. Prayers for Rain, Dennis Lehane, Copyright 1999.
There's a lesson here...for me, anyway. Remind me next time, will you? The only one I hurt by maintaining my reading comfort zone… is me.