There is little in this world that could get me to DNF a book. That being said, I came close to doing that with Dennis Lehane’s latest novel Small Mercies.
Set in 1970s Boston as the city prepares to desegregate their public schools, Mary Pat Fennessy goes through every parent's worst nightmare: her 17 year old daughter Jules goes out one night and doesn’t return. The same night as Jules’ disappearance, a young Black man Auggie is found dead on subway tracks in the "white" neighborhood under suspicious circumstances. Mary Pat goes on a rampage to try to find out what happened to Jules which draws the ire of Marty Butler, head of the Irish mob. At the same time, Detective Bobby Coyne works to uncover the truth behind Auggie's suspicious death and finds there may be a connection to Jules' disappearance.
This was not the story for me. As a mother, especially a single mother to a daughter, it was hard for me to power through Mary Pat’s journey to find out what happened to Jules. On top of that, there is a lot of racism and use of racial slurs. While this is clearly a product of the times in which the story is set, it made me feel really gross reading it. I’ve never felt so uncomfortable to read something from the POV of white people.
The story is incredibly well written and Lehane does not shy away from the horror of the times. I do believe this is something to be commended because, as hard as it was to read, it was probably just as hard to write. I understand the need for this story and the importance it will have in understanding just a little bit more about America’s history of racism and its awful legacy, but it is not a story that I will be revisiting anytime soon, if ever.
Small Mercies by Dennis Lehane is available now and you can get a copy for yourself here.
Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher for free and have voluntarily written this review. If you purchase a copy using my Bookshop affiliate link above, not only will I receive a small commission (which will fuel my coffee and tea addiction and help to keep me up all night reading more books to recommend to you), but you will be supporting indie bookstores as well!