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Audiobook Review: Small Mercies by Dennis Lahane

Title: Small Mercies

Author: Dennis Lahane (narrated by Robin Miles)
Year published: 2023
Category: Adult fiction
Pages: 323 pages
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location: (my 2023 Google Reading map)USA (MA)

SummaryIn the summer of 1974 a heatwave blankets Boston and Mary Pat Fennessy is trying to stay one step ahead of the bill collectors. Mary Pat has lived her entire life in the housing projects of “Southie,” the Irish American enclave that stubbornly adheres to old tradition and stands proudly apart.

One night Mary Pat’s teenage daughter Jules stays out late and doesn’t come home. That same evening, a young Black man is found dead, struck by a subway train under mysterious circumstances.

The two events seem unconnected. But Mary Pat, propelled by a desperate search for her missing daughter, begins turning over stones best left untouched—asking questions that bother Marty Butler, chieftain of the Irish mob, and the men who work for him, men who don’t take kindly to any threat to their business.

Review: This book is so good and the audio narration fit it perfectly. Hearing the Boston accent as I listened really helped to set the scene for me.

The racism and ignorance of the characters is so raw (beware the racist language in this book!). The Irish characters are convinced all Blacks are drug dealers and know that everyone should stay in their own neighborhoods. The impending school bussing is emphasizing the hatred and misunderstandings between the two groups though we only hear the Irish point of view.

The role of the Irish mob is clear from protection to threats to running drugs to keeping things quiet. Their tentacles reach into every crevice of the neighborhoods, ensuring that investigations don't unearth information that they want kept quiet. 

The main thread of the story is Mary Pat trying to figure out what happened to her daughter. Mary Pat is amazing; she is tough, rough, determined, and yes, soft. This thread is what reveals all other aspects of the neighborhood and the other characters. This story and its characters are raw; there's lots of swearing and some violence.

Challenges for which this counts: none

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