by George Pelecanos; Boston, Little, Brown and Company, 2009, 336 pages, $24.99
Dr. Houghtalen is medical director of Ambulatory Mental Health Services and Education, Unity Health System Department of Behavioral Health, Rochester, New York.
There's an old saying that "Every father should remember that one day his son will follow his example instead of his advice." Popular conversation about American culture has renewed an examination of the changing roles of men. What does manhood mean now in a world of rapidly changing mores? Many men find themselves more confused than ever about their roles, and there is nothing like the complex dynamics between father and son to shine a bright light on this predicament.
With tight writing and an edgy tone, George Pelecanos, award-winning writer of the gritty television crime series "The Wire," has crafted a crime novel that mines the nuances of the psychology of manhood, codes of honor, and the dynamics of fathers and sons. Even though The Way Home will appeal to men and women, it is important to note that this is a manly story. Teen Chris Flynn faces a sentence at the Pinewood juvenile detention center after an escalating series of conduct problems, and his father's rescue attempts can no longer protect him. Unable to break his son of the demons that once inhabited his own character, Tom can only bear witness to Chris' inability to walk away from trouble and his fumbling attempts to define himself as his own man. Joining his father's business after his release, Chris begins to enjoy the new "working" relationship that finally seems to be narrowing the gap between them until a dramatic discovery on a job site threatens not only the budding relationship between father and son, but also Chris' life and those in his circle of family and friends. A harrowing rollercoaster ride of events ends in redemption and reconciliation that draws the family close again, and Chris learns that he and his father are not so very different, as he once believed. The book's title clearly telegraphs the book's ending, but the read is a journey well worth taking anyway.