Review: The way home (2009) – George Pelecanos

I had been searching for a book that related to life as probation officer. The earliest impressions was something related to the series ‘The Guardian’.

‘The way home’ perhaps exceeds expectations. We find ourselves from the third person, looking at the lives of the (white Caucasian) Flynn family. Thomas Flynn, an ex-cop, probably agnostic. Amanda, his Catholic wife. Chris, the sole surviving male child (his sister dies earlier).

The book, more than juvenile crime was about parenting (and life).

The back page synopsis/write up left a deep impression: “…Thomas knows that no parent can protect a child from all the world’s evils. Sometimes you have to let them find their own way home.” Thomas was not the best of role models. In the closing pages, Pelecanos narrated that he would die at 55 from drunk driving. Moreover, in the adolescent phases of Chris’ misdemeanors, he did not appear to take a serious attitude. Eventually, he changed. Though it broke him to send Chris to Pine Ridge juvenile prison.

Upon his release, roughly ten years on, Chris gains employment under Thomas’ carpeting business. But it seemed that trouble was too near. Revenge nearly cost him and his girlfriend their future.

What was likeable was its realism and comprehensiveness. (Pelecanos helped produce the series ‘The Wire’.) The issues ranged from libido, to prejudice and racial disparity or alienation. The black and white divide still looms large; clearly seen in the reactions to deaths of black suspects in the US during the recent months. The language was what people actually spoke. We get to learn what goes on in peoples’ minds including: ‘Is my son going to get through life with $35k of income a year?’ – a paraphrase of what Thomas asks himself; how much former convicts distrust the police establishment; and their ‘code’.  Perceptions can often overwhelm the truth, at times for the worse…

People die. Ben who ‘graduated’ from Pine Ridge with Chris and later worked with him died. He died innocently. He died because he kept the ‘code’, the one with loyalty sticking out.

Lawrence Newhouse, a fellow prisoner with Chris, died. Chris could have died with him had Newhouse not knocked him out prior to the revenge attempt. They knew what was going to happen and they knew they were caught in a vicious cycle of violence (and despair?) but not everyone got out. Somethings just had to take place…

Knowledge and truth, it appears is not enough for people to act in self preservation…

On a related note, the psychiatrist/psychologist (or neurologist?) stated inside that the over time, reasoning (prefrontal cortex of the brain) development would catch up with emotional growth (brain limbic system). If this is true, how then should we treat teenagers who have broken the law?

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