Book Review: The Given Day

The Given Day
Author: Dennis Lehane
Number of Pages: 720
Where I Got It: Library

First line: On a wet summer night, Danny Coughlin, a Boston police officer, fought a four-round bout against another cop, Johnny Green, at Mechanics Hall just outside Copley Square.

This epic historical novel is set in Boston at the end of World War I and follows several characters throughout some of the most pivotal moments in American history.  From the police strike to the Boston Molasses Disaster, Lehane expertly intertwines the political and social unrest going on in one of the nation's biggest cities at the time with that of the lives of two families - the Coughlins and the Luthers.  We also meet some of the most famous personalities of the time - Babe Ruth, Calvin Coolidge, Mitchell Palmer and more - as the two families fight to make it through the increasingly turbulent times.

By the way, wrote that myself.  Pretty good synopsis.

This book was AMAZING.  I really love Dennis Lehane's mysteries (namely Gone Baby Gone but he also wrote Shutter Island which I haven't read yet) and this book was so different, yet still so so good.

The characters were extraordinary.  At times I will say that there were a few too many people to keep track of, but the main players in the book were so well-developed, I couldn't help but become completely engrossed in each of their stories. I wanted them to succeed, I was sad when they failed, I got angry when wrong was done to them. I nearly cried at some parts because of the emotional connection I made with these characters.

For someone who doesn't really know a lot of history, and a lot of American history at that, this book enlightened me to some otherwise unknown moments that happened during the early days of our country.  I had no idea that gallons and gallons of molasses had once covered the entire city of Boston, creating absolute mayhem and chaos, nor did I know much about the police strike in 1919.  Not only does Lehane do an incredible job of describing these events, but the suspense he creates leading up to the events (especially with the will they/won't they of the police strike) plus the description of the aftermath of these events is tense and action-packed.  I felt my heart racing at times as I read about the rioting in Boston after the announcement of the police strike.

Seriously, do yourself a favor with this one.  Although a daunting 720 pages, the book will fly by.  Very highly recommended and a new favorite.

Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Coming Up Next: Gilead by Marianne Robinson
The narrator, John Ames, is 76, a preacher who has lived almost all of his life in Gilead, Iowa. He is writing a letter to his almost seven-year-old son, the blessing of his second marriage. It is a summing-up, an apologia, a consideration of his life. Robinson takes the story away from being simply the reminiscences of one man and moves it into the realm of a meditation on fathers and children, particularly sons, on faith, and on the imperfectability of man.

Audio Review
Sam's Letters to Jennifer by James Patterson - I didn't even make it through disc two of this audiobook.  Oh my goodness this was seriously terrible.  The premise is that this woman Jennifer's grandmother who she calls Sam writes her a bunch of letters about her life and when Sam goes into a coma, Jennifer finds them and starts reading them.  Cheesy background music, terrible narrators (Anne Heche's voice sounds even more like a 16-year old's than mine does) and a horrible plotline just made this too hard for me to get through.  No bueno.

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