Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Turnaround - George Pelecanos

The Turnaround
George Pelecanos
Little, Brown, and Company


In 1970s Washington DC, teenaged Alex Pappas is learning a work ethic from his father, who operates a breakfast/lunch counter. He begins making deliveries at age 11, and learns percentages and math by working the register. One evening, he and a couple of friends are driving aimlessly around when one of them decides it would be fun to go through a black neighborhood and shout at the residents. Alex wants no part of it, but he’s not driving. Everything goes horribly wrong when it turns out that one of the three black teenagers has a gun.

The story is presented from both points of view with disturbing clarity. James and Raymond Monroe are brothers who live in the black neighborhood. James has dreams of moving up in the world; of becoming a mechanic and maybe owning his own garage one day. Raymond, the younger brother, is full of anger. Both are upset that the last carload of white boys who came through the neighborhood shouted at their mother, a hardworking and honest woman.

It’s so easy to see the story from both sides, and it’s a tribute to the author that he makes the incident and the consequences seem so avoidable on all sides. Anyone who’s every done something stupid as a kid will be able to relate, and there are so many points at which so many lives hinge on one decision, it’s painful to witness. When the story cuts to the present, it’s clear that there’s plenty more to be played out, based on that one, stupid night. While not type of mystery novel the author is justly known from (THE NIGHT GARDENER) this story is rich in truth and realism.

Rating: 8
August 2008
ISBN# 978-0-316-15647-9 (hardcover)


Post a Comment

<< Home