The Way Home by George Pelecanos

Thomas Flynn has a carpeting service, a loving wife and a young, healthy son.  His life seems monetarily and emotionally fulfilled until his son Chris strays into the world of drugs, making him erratic, rebellious and unambitious.  Since Thomas himself experimented with drugs when he was younger, he assumes that his son will travel down the same path of fleeting interest.

Not only does Thomas’s son’s life differ radically from his own, but at a crucial point Chris decides that he doesn’t have to do whatever anyone (including his mother and father) tell him to do.  On the heels of this discovery comes a minor car accident that turns into a tragedy which results in Chris’s incarceration.

George Pelecano’s The Way Home (published by the Hachette Book Group on May 12th) is startlingly in-depth in regards to detail, down to the eclectic phraseology that prisoners use and an interesting rendition of their mind-sets.  In a detention center (because of his age) Chris sees the way in which the underprivileged have been led into lives of crime, and there he also learns what extreme violence can occur from flippant and uncaring actions.

After serving his time Chris returns to work at his father’s carpeting business, and through the years he brings in some of his past prison mates, whom his father hires.  But then Chris’s past flies up to haunt him just at the point when he wants to marry his girlfriend and study to become a history teacher.  Because of his previous prison connections he comes into conflict with real psychopaths and murderers (over money, of course) and he must choose whether to honor past bonds or give over his life of crime to other, more damaged souls.

Whether or not you’ve experienced similar life situations, George Pelecanos makes you feel as if you’re in the same room with his characters, vicariously experiencing their fears and joys.  Middle-class homes and the dreams of those who inhabit them come alive, as do prison cells and jailhouse camaraderies.  In this story of familial love and forgiveness and a son’s return to his father, Pecanos creates dramatic mood changes as he draws you through intense and intricate plot lines.  This ability makes him a superior writer that you not only admire but with whom you identify, since he has opened his heart to all.

Grade: A

Themes:  Family, fathers, sons, loss, incarceration

Hachette Book Group


Christina Zawadiwsky is Ukrainian-American, born in New York City, has a degree in Fine Arts, and is a poet, artist, journalist and TV producer. She has received a National Endowment for the Arts Award, two Wisconsin Arts Boards Awards, a Co-Ordinating Council of Literary Magazines Writer’s Award, and an Art Futures Award, among other honors. She was the originator and producer of “Where The Waters Meet”, a local TV series created to facilitate the voices of artists of all genres in the media, for which she won two national and twenty local awards, including a Commitment to Community Television Award. She is also a contributing editor to the annual Pushcart Prize Anthology, the recipient of an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Wisconsin Library Association, and has published four books of poetry.

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