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The Given Day by Dennis Lehane [audiobook read by Michael Boatman]

October 12, 2009


Dennis Lehane is best known for his crime thrillers (Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone), so this, an ambitious historic novel, is a departure for him. Clocking in at just under 24 hours (over 700 pages for the book), it’s ambitious undertaking for the reader as well. But the time is well spent, one of my favorite books in recent memory.

The story takes place mostly in Boston near the end of World War I, a time that, for those who lived it, must have seemed like the end of the world. There is the Spanish flu epidemic, the May Day riots, rampant racism, a molasses flood, terrorist bombings, and a strike by the Boston police department that led to days of rioting that nearly destroyed the city.

Through these tumultuous times, we follow Danny Coughlin, a cop from a family of dedicated police officers, who struggles with his dual role as the dutiful son of an officer and the leader of the officer’s union. Crossing paths with Coughlin is Luther Laurence, a black man from Tulsa who fled to Boston after a deadly shootout. Throw into that mix several real-life historical characters (Babe Ruth, Governor Calvin Coolidge, John Hoover and Eugene O’Neill among others), and you have a sprawling, historically fascinating, multi-layered story with well-drawn, conflicted characters. On top of that is Lehane’s talent for suspense, which keeps it from ever getting dull.

The audiobook is performed by Michael Boatman, who deftly voices the narration as well as the dozens of characters, many with accents. A consistently solid performance.

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