The Given Day

Pandemics, terrorists attacks, war, racial tensions, political intrigue, fallen sports idols…….sound familiar? Just like much of today’s headlines. But the year is 1918, the setting is Boston and the characters are lifelike toughs that tackle all of these cultural crucibles with passion and compelling human dignity. The Given Day is simply the best book I have read since Cold Mountain. Dennis Lehane is the rare writer that creates larger than life characters that really aren’t larger than life, they are alive and vibrant and the passion they bring to relationships is magnetic. The three protagonists in the story cut a roughish image and take on society’s prejudices with  proud determination, Irish, Immigrant, and Black become inseparable friends and fated companions.


Lehane does excellent research and brings the period to life, informing the reader what it was really like to live when The Volstead Act changed America. We get a very vivid picture of the Red Scare and of the power players on both sides. We see a young J Edgar Hoover and a rising, Babe Ruth. We feel the hopelessness of the 1918 Flu that killed millions.


The first chapter sets the underlying conflicts of the time with a pickup baseball game between an all white professional (world series caliber) team and a black team. It is a remarkable opening commentary of the times.


Lehane is better known for his hard boiled, conflicted detective team, Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro, who operate “on the edge” throughout his popular detective  mysteries. Several have made it to film and fell short of the books in all cases. Most notably Gone Baby Gone, while the movie was OK the characterization of Kenzie as played by  Casey Affleck was poor casting by Director/Brother Ben.


Lehane writes like he has lived, with great understated passion and rich diversity. “Before becoming a full-time writer, Mr. Lehane worked as a counselor with mentally handicapped and abused children, waited tables, parked cars, drove limos, worked in bookstores, and loaded tractor-trailers. His one regret is that no one ever gave him a chance to tend bar. He lives in the Boston area.”


This book hit all my sweet spots, but it is not just a guy book my daughter loved it too.


Recommend it highly!


3 Responses

  1. Do you think they’ll make a movie out of it? I don’t read much….

  2. Are you familiar with William Kennedy? He wrote “Ironweed”. I’m reading one of his books, “Roscoe”. You would love it.

  3. anarchist …….it will probably be a movie…… they have theaters in Costa Rica?

    FN..thanks for the tip on Kennedy I will definitely give him a read. A quick google provides lots of exciting info on him. Daughter and I both were disappointed that Lehane didn’t write another detective novel until we read The Given Day and now we hope he never writes another one, but sticks instead to his historiical fiction. It was superb.

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