The Given Day: A Novel
by Dennis Lehane
(c) 2008 by Dennis Lehane. Harper Collins, 736 pgs
5 out of 5
I love Dennis Lehane's novels. This is a sweeping history of Boston, although it only takes place over a couple of years, more inline with his other historical fiction like Live by Night, then his detective works like Gone Baby Gone.
Having lived in Boston, and therefore knowing some of the territory, as well as loving history, and being a baseball fan and, spoiler alert, having the novel end with Babe Ruth being traded to the Yankees, it was easy to get into and hooked on the book. Since I was listening to it, even my youngest daughter got upset when we got home one day because, as she said, "it just got really interesting and intense."
The story intertwines the lives of Danny Coughlin, a cop in Boston, along with his family, Luther Laurence, an African-American on the run and seeking safety, and the great Babe Ruth. It covers, among other things, the great flu epidemic of 1918, the Boston Mollases flood, and most importantly the rise of trade unions, and the men who would like to break them, and use their power to do so, culminating in the Boston police strike, and the issue of race relations that goes alongside everything that happens in America.
But this is more than just a story about these events that happen in the past, because Lehane is writing about the problems that continue to haunt us today, capitalism and its desire to make money for some through the work of others, at as little pay as possible and wanting to keep it that way, against the cries of others who think it could be/should be different and are shouted down as communists. Of police violence, and in particular that violence being taken out on those society doesn't care about, and only getting upset when the violence begins to come their way. And the race issues that continue to plague the nation.
It's a long book, and one that can get you hooked and intimately involved, even rooting for someone to be killed, but I would recommend it, especially if you are already a fan of Lehane's work and his deft handling not only of storytelling, and character development, but of the English language.