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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Mystic River by Dennis Lehane: Impressions


I finally got around to reading Mystic River about a month ago at the recommendation of Ben and the casual Lehane fandom of others, and it did not let me down! Even though I saw the movie years ago when it came out, the novel was still surprising (and better than the movie for offering much more nuance and inner psychological turmoil). One problem with seeing a movie before reading the book is the inability to picture the characters as anything but the actors that portrayed them. For example, I could not for the life of me picture Jimmy as light-haired or blond.

The basic plot revolves around three men who knew each other when they were children and drifted apart after a pinnacle incident changed their lives, one in particular, terribly. 25 years later, yet another horrific event brings them all back together, with devastating consequences. The well-rounded characters are painted with depth and precision - well, as much precision as one can get when rendering psychological portraits.
Sometimes Celeste found herself consciously trying to ignore a notion that it wasn't only the things in her life but her life, itself, that was not meant to have any weight or lasting impact, but was, in fact, programmed to break down at the first available opportunity so that its few usable parts could be recycled for someone else while the rest of her vanished. (123)
The novel progresses with a sort of compassionate suspense, leading the reader to the inevitable outcome he or she knows is coming while still hoping otherwise. The entire story is steeped in foreboding (is that the noir aspect?).
...Jimmy felt that mean certainty again.
You felt it in your soul, no place else. You felt the truth there sometimes--beyond logic--and you were usually right if it was the type of truth that was the exact kind you didn't want to face, weren't sure you could. That's what you tried to ignore, why you went to psychiatrists and spent too long in bars and numbed your brain in front of TV tubes00to hide from hard, ugly truths your soul recognized long before your mind caught up. (115)
Lehane manages to capture what just about anyone might be capable of, given the right experiential contexts and scenarios. It reveals both the depths of humanity's compassion/love and horrific evil, and it explores the tenuous morality and honor most of us strive for in our own way. All in all, it was a fantastic read, and I look forward to reading more of Lehane's work.

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