Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mystic River

Mystic River by Dennis Lehane
Harper Collins Publishers, 2001
Hardcover, 416 pages
ISBN-13: 9780688163167

When they were children, Sean Devine, Jimmy Marcus, and Dave Boyle were friends. But then a strange car drove up their street. One boy got in the car, two did not, and something terrible happened — something that ended their friendship and changed the boys forever. Twenty-five years later, Sean is a homicide detective. Jimmy is an ex-con. And Dave is trying to hold his marriage together and keep his demons at bay — demons that urge him to do horrific things.
When Jimmy's daughter is murdered, Sean is assigned to the case. His investigation brings him into conflict with Jimmy, who finds his old criminal impulses tempt him to solve the crime with brutal justice. And then there is Dave, who came home the night Jimmy's daughter died covered in someone else's blood. While Sean attempts to use the law to return peace and order to the neighborhood, Jimmy finds his need for vengeance pushing him ever closer to a moral abyss from which he won't be able to return.

My Thoughts:
After being made into a movie with a star-studded cast, I would guess that almost everyone either knows or has several good clues about the plot of Mystic River by Dennis Lehane. Since I recently read Lehane's Shutter Island, I knew I'd also be reading Mystic River at some point.  

Mystic River is both a murder mystery and a character study. Set in a blue-collar Boston neighborhood, Mystic River opens in 1975, following ten year old friends Sean Devine, Jimmy Marcus, and Dave Boyle during the time when Dave is kidnapped by a pair of child molesters. Dave escapes, but is changed. Then the novel jumps forward to one week in 2000 when Jimmy's daughter is murdered and Sean is now a homicide investigator for the Massachusetts State Police.
Mystic River is a crime novel, but is more importantly a character study of these men now grown and their wives. It focuses on a crime and the fragile, flawed, damaged characters dealing with their feelings of remorse, grief, revenge, passion, and hopelessness. While dark and moody, it totally captivates the reader and transports you to the neighborhood. You will feel like you are in the Boston neighborhood with these characters and experiencing their uncertainty, grief, guilt, and doubts.
As each of the character's actions seem to indicate guilt or influence the actions or perceptions of the other characters, it soon become clear that Lehane really is a masterful writer. There was no superfluous scene, no extra words, no unnecessary details. Everything was very carefully and skillfully presented right up to the end. You will be asking yourself  "Are all our futures so uncertain, so fragile? Does destiny really all hinge on one action, one event, one decision? Could one decision have changed everything?"
The ending wasn't as big a surprise as Shutter Island, but it was a very satisfying novel.
very highly recommended


When Sean Devine and Jimmy Marcus were kids, their fathers worked together at the Coleman Candy plant and carried the stench of warm chocolate back home with them. It became a permanent character of their clothes, the beds they slept in, the vinyl backs of their car seats. Sean's kitchen smelled like a Fudgsicle, his bathroom like a Coleman Chew-Chew bar. By the time they were eleven, Sean and Jimmy had developed a hatred of sweets so total that they took their coffee black for the rest of their fives and never ate dessert. opening

It wasn't like the Point glittered with gold streets and silver spoons. It was just the Point, working class, blue collar, Chevys and Fords and Dodges parked in front of simple A-frames and the occasional small Victorian. But people in the Point owned. People in the Flats rented. Point families went to church, stayed together, held signs on street corners during election months. The Flats, though, who knew what they did, living like animals sometimes, ten to an apartment, trash in their streets -- Wellieville, Sean and his friends at Saint Mike's called it, families living on the dole, sending their kids to public schools, divorcing. So while Sean went to Saint Mike's Parochial in black pants, black tie, and blue shirt, Jimmy and Dave went to the Lewis M. Dewey School on Blaxston. Kids at the Looey & Dooey got to wear street clothes, which was cool, but they usually wore the same ones three out of five days, which wasn't. There was an aura of grease to them-greasy hair, greasy skin, greasy collars and cuffs. A lot of the boys had bumpy welts of acne and dropped out early. A few of the girls wore maternity dresses to graduation. pg. 4-5
And he was glad, too, once again, that he hadn't gotten in that car.
Damaged goods. That's what Jimmy's father had said to his mother last night: "Even if they find him alive, the kid's damaged goods. Never be the same." pg. 26
For the rest of her life, Diane would wish she'd stayed in that car. She would give birth to a son in less than a year and she'd tell him when he was young (before he became his father, before he became mean, before he drove drunk and ran over a woman waiting to cross the street in the Point) that she believed she was meant to stay in that car, and that by deciding to get out, on a whim, she felt she'd altered something, shaved an overriding sense that her life was spent as a passive observer of other people's tragic impulses, impulses she never did enough to curb. pg. 47-48
And for a quarter second, looking into his face, she felt nauseous. She felt something leering behind his eyes, something turned on and self-congratulatory. pg. 56
The harsh light caught her face, and Sean could see what she'd look like when she was much older - a handsome woman, scarred by wisdom she'd never asked for. pg. 164
"....but it would hit them sooner or later - life isn't happily ever after and golden sunsets and sh*t like that. It's work. The person you love is rarely worthy of how big your love is. Because no one is worthy of that and maybe no one deserves the burden of it, either. You'll be let down. You'll be disappointed and have your trust broken and have a lot of real sucky days. You lose more than you win. You hate the person you love as much as you love him. But, sh*t, you roll up your sleeves and work - at everything - because that's what growing older is." pg. 262


Anna said...

I bought this book ages ago and for some reason never read it. Glad to hear you liked it, so I'll probably dust it off and read it at some point.

Lori L said...

Have you seen the movie Anna? I haven't. I'm not sure if seeing the movie would influence your enjoyment of the book, but then again, good books are always worth reading.

samantha.1020 said...

I skimmed your review of this one just to see if you liked it or not. I just found a used copy of it at the thrift store and can't wait to read it myself. I LOVED Shutter Island so I have really high hopes for this one. Glad to hear that you are recommending it :)