The Given Day

Did anyone miss me?  I was away for a few weeks in Alaska where a man like me–who carries no cell phone, no lap top, no things that beep, boop or buzz–can really get away from it all.  Before you get to romantic about my adventure, I was on a cruise ship for half the journey where one thing I did was avoid anything that beeped, booped or buzzed. 

The other thing that one can do at a time like this is read a really big book.  The Given Day by Dennis Lehane weighs in at 700 pages of dense historical facts wrapped around a narrative from three points of view.  At times the book has a fly-on-the-wall aspect.  The book builds towards the inevitable Boston Police strike of 1919 but along the way also involves the post-WWI trauma in America, the role of Irish, Italian and African-Americans in an evolving country, the threat of a perceived Bolshevik revolution, and the constantly evolving relationships between a number of characters.

What make this book so good for a book discussion is that n0thing comes easy to anyone.  There is one triangle in this book that can be defined by the follow sentence from the book: “There were few places a black man and a white man could congregate in public and fewer still where a woman could join those men.”

There is a feeling of waste to the book, an inevitability of hopelessness that creates a pallor over all that occurs.  People are used up in this book.

“It’s wrong,” he said.

“What’s that?”

“What men of means demand of men without.”

Don’t be without this rich, dense historical novel on your fall book discussion list.

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About the Author:

Gary Niebuhr is the author of Make Mine a Mystery (2003), Caught up in Crime (2009), and other readers' guides to mystery and detective fiction. He was a Booklist contributor from 2008-2014.

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