Monday, February 22, 2016

Dodgers: A Book Review

East is a feral child, living rough, a product of the Los Angeles streets. He lives by his wits, which in DODGERS means he scratches a living as a watchman at a crack house. All he knows is his neighborhood, and that proves to be little when his underlings fail at their posts and East must make amends to the gang leader by murdering a judge who has angered the gang.

The book provides a well-described journey through foreign territory as East and his colleagues drive from LA to Wisconsin to whack their intended victim. He travels with his violent and unpredictable half-brother, an equally feral child who has no emotional connection to East. There are no children here, nor are there families as you might know them.

Along the way, the gang has various adventures that force East to rely on his wits to escape, all of which make for page-turning fiction. What happens after he reaches Wisconsin and a once simple plan falls to pieces is compelling reading.

The ending is a bit too 'deus ex machina' and I suspect that Bill Beverly would have given one of his writing students a dose of criticism for using the same technique, but other than that the prose is believable.

Granted, it is white people bringing in the element of salvation as East works his way home, a place that he realizes does not exist in the traditional sense that he sees all around him as he wanders through the upper Midwest. Some might quibble about the lack of black influence, wondering why some middle class black man could not have represented the world outside of the drug dens of Los Angeles. Could the narrative have flowed in the same way if so strong a contrast was not made between what East knows and what he sees for the first time outside of some television programme? Did he not leave Los Angeles wearing Dodgers team shirts to make him appear more in tune with white culture, and less threatening?

That's something for the book group to discuss.

What East discovers about the world beyond the borders of his neighborhood alters him completely, and that makes for a satisfying conclusion to a very modern tale. The prose is dense and is meant to reflect the language of the streets, making for a slow read, but the reader's effort is rewarded.

Thanks to Penguin Random House for the review copy. I thoroughly enjoyed the novel.

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