My husband Jay and I both read this book and found it compelling. We also found it to be a big topic of conversation. Now that we are fifteen years past the raising of our last child we were able to talk about the subject of this book with some healthy distance. I’m going to share part of our discussion. As you’ll see, we don’t always agree. First, here’s a summary of The Way Home.
Summary: Tom and Amanda Flynn believed that if you raised a child in a comfortable home, good schools, church and with two loving parents, it should be what a child needs to be successful in life. It didn’t seem to work for their son, Christopher. By the time Chris was sixteen his grades were down, he stopped playing sports, started shoplifting, fighting, smoking marijuana and was headed for jail.
A stretch in a juvenile jail worked for Chris. He grew up and learned what he had to do to stay out of jail. He got his own apartment and a job working for his father’s flooring business as a carpet installer. By his mid-twenties he was doing okay. Then one day he and his friend discovered a bag with a lot of money hidden under a floor in a house where they were laying carpet. They put the money back, laid down the carpet, and walked away. Unfortunately, Chris’ friend tells someone. Unfortunately, the two crooks who originally stashed the money come looking for it. And then the story continues.
Here are some of the questions we asked ourselves:
1. Tom Flynn (the father) looks back and blames himself for the problems Chris had in his teen years. Do you think he was right?
Jay said: The main problem in their parenting was that they were not united. It was not totally the father’s fault. The father was tough on Chris and tried to teach him how to be a man. The mother was very permissive. She even gave him money when he was in jail. Tom Flynn told her that Chris was just going to buy marijuana but she gave him the money anyway. It’s almost ingrained in teenagers to play one parent against another. They should have been wise to that. Chris is also responsible for his actions. It’s not all the parent’s fault. The kid took his own path, made his own choices.
Margot said: All three are responsible for what happened to Chris but the father should bear the majority of the blame. He’s the one who taught Chris how to fight, how to shoot a gun, told him not to let anyone get the best of him. He even told him about his own marijuana-smoking days as if to say it’s okay if you smoke. Chris never felt like he measured up to his father’s expectations of toughness. I will agree that the mother was just too nice. And, I’ll agree that Chris was smart and could have controlled his own behavior.
2. What would you have done if you found the money under the floor?
Jay said: Theoretically I’d like to think I’d do the right thing. In reality I’d be hard pressed not to take the money. I was surprised when Chris didn’t take it but it would have been a different story if he did.
Margot said: I’m too straight. I would have called the police, the owner of the house, my lawyer, anybody I thought should be involved. But then, that would have been the end of the story.
3. This is a new author for us. Do you want to read more of his books?
Jay said: I’d like to read at least one more. I enjoyed the book, although it dragged in the middle for me. I would have shortened the section where Chris was incarcerated. The writing was good. I had a little trouble reading some of the dialogue with the “street slang” in it. I’ll read one more book and then decide if I want to read more.
Margot said: I definitely want to read more of Pelecanos’ books. I know this is classified as Crime Fiction but it didn’t really feel that way. There was a little violence and some bad language but it fit the story. The characters were well developed. They each had flaws but that’s what made them feel human.
Join the conversation. What do you think? Is it the parent’s fault when their kids go bad? What would you do if you found $50,000 in a building that had been abandoned?
I first saw this book reviewed on Kathy’s (Bermuda Onion’s) blog. Read her review HERE. Thanks also to Miriam at Hatchette Book Group for sending us a review copy of this book. Kathy also reviewed another of George Pelecanos’ books this week and included an excellent video of an interview with the author. Check it out HERE. If the author’s works appeal to you, check out his website at George Pelecanos. It’s fun to read and even includes a list of the music he’s listening to on his ipod as he is on his book tour. Great fun.