Monday, November 9, 2009

'The Way Home' Rings True as a Family Portrait

Review of THE WAY HOME (Hachette Audio 2009)
By guest blogger Star Lawrence

hor, George Pelecanos; read by Dion Graham

Some nice, hard-working middle-class parents don't end up with the stereotypical kids who take the stereotypical road to adulthood. I didn't, for instance. So I can identify with George Pelecanos' latest. Although it's set in the Washington, DC, area, a Pelecanos trademark, the protag, Chris Flynn, son of the owner of a successful carpet installation company, is not African-American, a departure of sorts for this author, who has also written for The Wire on HBO.

The story opens on Chris in juvie—having tested and broken his parents' hearts several times with stupid adolescent decisions. Now he's inside the system and they are outside, confused, angry, and hurt. Chris drops his verbs, adopts some street intonations and casually informs his dad at one point that he "knows how to jail." His Dad corrects him each time. Personally, I hate the expression "where it's at" and correct it every time!

As their paths diverge, parents and son, they also braid back together when Chris gets out. The young man even goes to work with Dad's company and his Dad hires some of Chris' pals from juvie. But don't bring out the pleasing pastels for the family portrait just yet.

One day, after installing a carpet in an empty house, Chris and a friend from jail, Ben, discover a compartment under the floor with $50,000 in it. Uh-oh.

Chris remembers some movies (A Simple Plan comes to mind, but was not mentioned) in which keeping found money like this comes to no good. He talks Ben into putting it back.

But fate has spun the Big Wheel. Click, click, where will it stop?

I leave it to you to read or better yet, listen to his story, one of Pelecanos' most involving, at least for me.

Dion Graham reads it and does not overdo the street gab. His voice is quite hypnotic in fact, and like someone who speaks in low tones, draws you in and makes you listen carefully.

You are not going to want to miss a word.

Star Lawrence reviews more audiobooks on She can be reached at

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