Book Review: The Way Home by George Pelecanos

wayhomeMy 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?

picture-1I 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.

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11 Responses to Book Review: The Way Home by George Pelecanos

  1. M says:

    I have not read any of this author’s work – yet. But with reviews like you and Kathy gave, I simply must try one of them soon.

  2. Nicole says:

    Margot, I love this approach to your review. I have The Turnaround to read by this author and based upon your review and Kathy’s review I am looking forward to reading it.

  3. Cerrin says:

    I would be intersted in reading this book and joining in on the conversation. I think being a rebelious child myself I might have a different insite on the discussion.

  4. My husband and I are always amazed how we can read exactly the same book but come up with totally different impressions. What fun to post a joint book review! We have a few posted on LibraryThing, but they’re much less civil! :–)

  5. Belle says:

    What a great review. I liked reading the questions that came to you, and how each of you answered them. And I just want to say it’s wonderful that your husband reads and enjoys the same books as you do.

  6. Beth F says:

    I didn’t read your conversation because I need to read the book first, but I will come back and read it later.

  7. Mog says:

    I have not read any of this author’s work but am intrigued by this book. Parents and children , now there’s a combination. No one can prodict the outcome.

  8. it is interesting that an husband and wife can enjoy the same books, in my experience most don’t.
    Whay not try a great new sporting comedy entitled, Classes Apart.

    This is an adult sporting comedy that follows the fortunes of Paul Marriot, the secretary of the Barnstorm Village Sunday soccer team and coach of a school cricket team in Yorkshire, England. The story describes the remarkable camaraderie between the players and supporters of this little club and their desire to achieve success. Nonetheless, the team is known more for its antics off the field, rather than their performances on it.

    During his time at the club he meets and becomes involved with Emma Potter, who is the sister of James Potter, a major player for their bitter rivals Moortown Inn. Thus, begins an entangled web of romance and conflict. He also begins working at Derry High School, a school with a poor reputation of academic success, where he becomes coach of the school cricket team. Here he develops an amazing relationship with the children and embarks on an epic journey.

  9. Kathy says:

    I love the way you did this review and I’m so glad you enjoyed this book. What’s funny is I actually think Pelecanos is more popular with males than females. If I had found the money, I would have called the owner immediately, which would have changed the book.

  10. So fun that you and Jay collaborated on this post! I haven’t read the book, but I’ll give you my opinion on your questions …

    No, I don’t think parents are at fault if their kids “go bad.” We do the best we can, and hope that our positive influence is stronger than any negative people/ideas they come in contact with (you’re talking “grown” children, I assume …)

    Like Kathy I would contact the owner of the money, or hand it in to the police. Hmm, I wonder what I’d be doing in an abandoned building in the first place!

  11. Pingback: Review: The Way Home by George Pelecanos « Reactions to Reading

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