The Given Day by Dennis Lehane follows 2 families - the Irish American Coughlin family and the African American Laurence family. The Coughlins live in Boston post WWI and the father and oldest son are cops. There is a lot of unrest due to racism against new immigrants, the formation of unions and the beginning of strikes. Luther Laurence moves from Columbus to Tulsa and then ends up in Boston after getting into trouble with a bookie.
While the elder Coughlin follows the general way of thinking for the times and is against the Russians and unions and strikes. Danny is the eldest son and is a beat cop who has already seen a lot of action when the book opens. Eventually, he begins going to meetings at a Social Club that is really just a front for unionizing the police force and once he hears the message, it makes sense to him and causes strife with his family. When Luther ends up in Boston, he works for the Coughlin family and is immediately on the radar of a dirty cop who is a Coughlin family friend.
I thought that this was a really good book. It was incredibly long, but if it was any shorter, I think I would have felt that there were things left out. Lehane mentions many real events and people from the time - the Molasses Disaster was amazing and described well. And the characters and stories surrounding them drew me into the novel. I think I will definitely read another of Lehane's novels.
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls is ... Well, I'm not really sure how to describe it. Jeannette grew up in squalor because her parents were flakes. She is the second child in the family that moved all over the southwest before driving across the country to West Virginia where they lived the majority of their lives before the kids ran away to NYC. Her dad was an alcoholic and both of her parents were incredibly selfish.
I am not sure how I found the book to read, but I have to say that it is a good book. Walls writes in a very matter of fact style and doesn't seem to hold anything against her parents and I find that so shocking considering the living conditions and that the kids had to pick through garbage in order to have food to eat. I actually found recent interviews with Walls and she has her mother living on her ranch with her and her mother continues to treat her like nothing special even though Jeannette has brought herself out of the squalor and made quite a life for herself as a writer.
There were a few parts in the book that made me quite squeamish and I am certainly sniffing my food as it comes out of the refrigerator now. I think the most disturbing part of the book is that it really happened and that there are probably families who are living like this today.
What are you reading?