Title: The Way Home
Author: George Pelecanos
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Publisher: Little, Brown, and Company
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobook from the public library
Audiobook reader: Dion Graham
First line: No one could say why it was called Pine Ridge.
The Way Home
is the story of Chris Flynn, a troubled youth. He was raised in a good family, but made some bad choices and ended up doing time in a juvenile detention center called Pine Ridge. The friendships he forms in Pine Ridge stay with him when he comes out. He goes to work installing carpet for his father, who owns a flooring company. He starts to date a nice girl. He is helping his friend, Ben, to get his life together as well. And yet, Chris’s father, Thomas, just can’t quite believe that Chris has left all the bad times behind him. When an accidental discovery throws Chris into the middle of a criminal’s hunt for missing money, Chris has to decide – will he revert back to the things he learned while doing time, or will he stay on the right path?
When it comes right down to it, The Way Home is the story of a father and a son, and the things that come in the way of them truly connecting and understanding one another. There’s also a bag of money, a murder, and a lot of sleazy characters that are so fully described that I could see them as I listened to this audiobook.
Pelecanos has a way with characters and dialogue, and the people and conversations are as real as the people I see on the street. Aside from the father-son relationship, he also deals with juvenile delinquency; ways to treat/punish delinquents; loyalty and friendship; poverty; race relations; and the power of choice. He also shows how the environment a child is raised in can make all the difference in their ability to make the right choices and their access to opportunity.
I liked this book – and the narrator, Dion Graham, was outstanding. I didn’t love this book, though, mainly because one of the ways that Pelecanos makes his characters live and breathe in his story is by making their words and actions reflect the state of their soul and mind. Because of that, the language is extremely graphic and the sexual content was too explicit. I don’t consider myself a prude, and yet I think the author could have found ways to flesh out his characters without being quite so extreme. I know that it is hypocritical to say that the characters were extremely well-written, and yet complain about how the author chose to do that, but I have to be honest about what I thought of the book. For other readers, this may not be an issue at all.