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Say Nice Things About Detroit

3.24  ·  Rating Details ·  865 Ratings  ·  200 Reviews
Twenty-five years after his high school graduation, David Halpert returns to a place that most people flee. But David is making his own escape—from his divorce and the death of his son. In Detroit, David learns about the double shooting of his high school girlfriend Natalie and her black half-brother, Dirk. As David becomes involved with Natalie’s sister, he will discover ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published July 2nd 2012 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published January 1st 2012)
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Detroit by Charlie LeDuffMiddlesex by Jeffrey EugenidesDetroit Noir by E.J. OlsenDetroit City Is the Place to Be by Mark BinelliConey Detroit by Katherine Yung
111th out of 113 books — 28 voters

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Feb 20, 2013 Tony rated it it was ok
Shelves: novels
I'm usually pretty generous when it comes to fiction that's explicitly trying evoke a city, especially if that city isn't New York. Unfortunately, this sappy love letter to Detroit just goes way too far in trying to resuscitate the city, and along the way invokes race in a way that is highly suspect. The plot revolves around David a 40-something lawyer who grew up outside Detroit, but has been living in Denver for the last twenty years or so. His mother's sliding into dementia, and his father as ...more
Jun 04, 2016 Caryn rated it it was amazing
As an auto-industry and Detroit refugee who now lives in Denver, this book was an absolute must-read.

I have a friend whose annual gift to me is a trip to someplace in Detroit -- Belle Isle, Greektown, a Tiger Game, or even just an coney island hot dog from Lafayette Street. My friend loves Detroit, and always helps me see the beauty in this old and ravaged city..

And even though, I won't be migrating back any time soon, it was gratifying to see the city again through fresh eyes. Lasser has done
Jul 15, 2012 Erin rated it did not like it
I had to put this book down and walk away. I had high hopes for this book, being a Detroit area resident (I won't lie, I don't live within the city, but south of it.). Growing up, Detroit is the big city, the city my parent's used to go to, the one I started exploring when I got old enough to drive myself there, where I frequent now. It is the city my grandfather used to drive my four year old brother around, showing him the sights, especially Belle Isle. My husband is from the actual city, and ...more
Stephanie W
Jan 21, 2013 Stephanie W rated it really liked it
Shelves: detroit
As someone also writing about Detroit and its suburbs, I felt I had to read SAY NICE THINGS ABOUT DETROIT. Lasser certainly knows his setting, and I loved the idea of these characters returning home after tragedy befalls them in more idyllic locales (Denver, Los Angeles). Lasser also shines light on the ongoing racial tension in the city; there is a black Detroit and a white (suburban) Detroit, and the two worlds rarely intersect. What gives weight and momentum to the novel are Lasser's characte ...more
Jun 13, 2012 Betsy rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: sentimental detroiters
White upper-middle class guy returns to Detroit - the "real" Detroit below 8 mile road, not the suburban Detroit to the north where he grew up - and has adventures, good and bad, with black people. That's the gist of this novel by someone who went to my suburban Detroit prep school - and I don't fault him for trying or for implying, if not outright saying, that there are nice things about Detroit. But the writing was a bit blunt and the novel plot-heavy, jerking from one character to the next, o ...more
Larry Hoffer
Sep 02, 2012 Larry Hoffer rated it really liked it
Yes, you can go home again. But do you want to? Scott Lasser's new novel, Say Nice Things about Detroit, strives to answer those questions.

David Halpert hasn't really been back to his hometown of Detroit in more than 25 years. Most people flee that city and never come back, but trying to recover from a divorce and the death of his son, and help his father with his ailing mother, David decides to return. Shortly thereafter, he learns about the murder of his high school girlfriend, Natalie, and he
Mike Tueros
Dec 02, 2012 Mike Tueros rated it liked it
A quick read, and with roots in hometown nostalgia, I would probably have given this book 3 1/2 stars if possible. Lasser weaves a story about David Halpert, a Denver lawyer who is pulled back to his hometown of Detroit to help his father with his mother, who suffers from Alzheimer's. That's a lot in and of itself, but to pile on top of it, Halpert is divorced and his son was killed in an auto accident a few years prior...wait, not done yet. He gets involved with his high school girlfriends sist ...more
Mar 18, 2013 Peebee rated it really liked it
I liked this book a lot more than most other readers, it seems. I spent four years in Michigan, and while I never lived in Detroit, I did spend time there and many of my friends were Detroit-area natives. So it felt very familiar to me. So much so that I briefly had this insane fantasy of buying an extremely inexpensive house -- for cash or something close to it -- and spending some time there. Unlikely it will happen but it's no crazier than some other ideas that have crossed my mind in the las ...more
Whoa, this book really took me all around the Detroit area, including near to the suburban areas I grew up and lived it. Street by street, names of places that are both still there or now gone. Wow. The story was pretty good too. "Say Nice Things About Detroit" was a quote by Detroit resident Emily Gail, and it was also a sign on the side of a building downtown:

This is about 2 childhood friends who reunite as family issues bring them both back to Detroit.
Oct 28, 2014 Joshua rated it liked it
The "bad part of Detroit," the "black person's Detroit" that whites never see, where you don't want to go alone and where the big murder happens? Hancock and Cass. In 2006.

Kinda colored the rest of the book for me.
Feb 09, 2013 Akeiisa rated it really liked it
While this wasn't the suspenseful, tense novel I thought it would be, it was a nice character study focusing on what it means to start over when you think you've lost what matters. David is still recovering from the loss of his son, when his father asks him to come home to Detroit to help with his ailing mother. Carolyn has returned to Detroit following the murder of her sister and half-brother and finds herself confronting some hard truths. Marlon has lived his entire life in Detroit, made some ...more
Becca Tullman
Jan 16, 2016 Becca Tullman rated it really liked it
The language was simple... almost terse. But it was just. ... readable. A story filled with the damage life does, death and divorce and parents with dementia, but also a story of hope and second chances, and how giving second chances to others can facilitate your own second chances. It reminds you that starting over can be full of hope and possibilities, and often that is exactly enough.
Sep 12, 2012 Lora rated it really liked it
Still grieving over the death of his son, lawyer David Halpert decides to move back to Detroit from Denver to help his father as his mother descends into dementia. His decision coincides with the murder of his high school girlfriend, Natalie, and her African-American half brother, Dirk, who was an FBI agent. David connects with Natalie's younger sister, Carolyn, who's come back to Detroit because of the tragedy. They start seeing each other, even though Carolyn is married and lives in Los Angele ...more
Eric Walters
Aug 03, 2013 Eric Walters rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 08, 2012 Rick rated it it was ok
Scott Lasser's novel is a quick and easy read perfect for an interminable flight from Newark to Charlotte. the book chronicles the ever popular cliche of the lost middle-aged white dude who finds love and happiness upon returning to inner city Detroit and builds a life with the adulterous sister of his former girlfriend who on page one has already been cutdown in a hail of gunfire with her black half brother. Coincidences I think not. Lasser writes better about Detroit then he does about people. ...more
Allison Long
Nov 20, 2012 Allison Long rated it really liked it
Besides having one of the best titles I've seen in years, 'Say Nice Things About Detroit' is a really good read. By really good read I mean that you don't want to put it down and that Scott Lasser ties everything together without making it seem cliche. He also makes Detroit sound, if not like paradise, definitely not like the washed up ghost town we've all come to associate with the city. I have to admit that I was a little scared after finishing the book, because this is not a sugar coated nove ...more
Jan 26, 2013 Scotchneat rated it liked it
Shelves: family-fiction
David Halpert grew up in Detroit but left, like many others, for a better life. But when he returns home to help his father take care of his mother, he decides to stay for good and move back from Denver.

He finds out that his high school sweetheart and her half-brother, who happens to have been an FBI agent, and black, were gunned down a few days before. He gets in touch with her younger sister and they become involved.

This is a love story for the city of Detroit that nonetheless focused on its c
Aug 15, 2012 Patty rated it really liked it
Shelves: readin12
This was a good story. A bit of a mystery and suspense with interesting characters. I wasn't familiar with Scott Lasser but he wrote a couple more books, one about Battle Creek which I'd like to read.

Detroit is a place that most people don't have anything nice to say about it. Crime is easy to find and hard to get away from. The two main characters moved away as soon as they could but circumstances have changed and now they want to come back and take on the challenge and be happy in Detroit. So
Doreen Dickinson
Dec 23, 2012 Doreen Dickinson rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the book. i would have preferred 3.5 stars but without that option, i gave the 4. its a simple easy read about nice people trying to navigate the meaning in midlife. however, Detroit, race, and parenting are very interesting side characters. one review said it was a sad depiction of that city and is not a true representation. i don't know the city and cant answerthat. however, what i can say is that it is an accurate depiction of what's broken in the us, along with the hope and sorrow ...more
Mar 27, 2013 Naomi rated it really liked it
David Halpert, a lawyer living in Denver is compelled to come home to Detroit to help his father take care of his aging mother. He finds he can not go back to Denver and leave his father without help. He meets Carolyn, the sister of his old sweetheart Natalie who has been shot to death along side of Dirk, their black brother. David immerses himself once again into the city of Detroit and tries to make a life for himself there. The flavor of Detroit and its hard times come through very vividly in ...more
Mary Beth
Mar 11, 2013 Mary Beth rated it really liked it
Overall, I liked Say Nice Things About Detroit quite a bit. Probably due quite a bit to the fact that I grew up in Detroit (yes, in Detroit), now live next door to it and still spend a lot of time in it (including working two miles from where the main character bought his house). I didn't love the portrayal that ONLY african-american people live in Detroit and specifically in Palmer Woods (a neighborhood in Detroit). Not true! I know plenty of white folks who live in the city. Of course I loved ...more
Nov 30, 2012 Catherine rated it really liked it
This is not Eminem's Detroit. Although the same issues are present in Scott Lasser's novel, the perspective is different. In 8 Mile, the character was angling for a way out of Detroit. In Say Nice Things..., the main character comes back to Detroit. It's a very human, multifaceted perspective and definitely worth the time to read. The characters are real and engaging and the matter of fact tone of the writing makes what could otherwise have been horrifying incidents accessible to people who were ...more
Jul 12, 2014 Debbie rated it liked it
I’ve seen this billed as a mystery, I suppose because there is a murder, although it is part of a secondary plot and it’s not really a mystery to the reader, only to the protagonist. The book is much more a novel about “coming home”. But, as the book jacket says:: “Where do you go when home is Detroit?”

My dad grew up in Windsor Ontario, across the river south of Detroit. He was a life-long Tigers and Red Wings fan, but no fan really of the city of Detroit itself, into which he took regular busin
Aug 21, 2016 Dai rated it did not like it
Maybe I don't feel strongly enough to say that I "hated" it... but I really really didn't like it.
I normally don't have any issue with male authors writing with a female voice, but what. the. hell. There is one major female character, and she defines herself completely in terms of her relationships to them men around her! I kept holding out for character growth that would bring her some kind of self-actualization, but by the end she was still completely stagnant. (view spoiler)
Sep 25, 2012 Erin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-adored
LOOOVED this book. Best book of 2012 for me. The protagonist is exactly my age. He's writing about Detroit, a subject I find fascinating. I found it very well written - mesmerizing, almost. One of those books you just live inside of while you're reading it. The portrayal of Detroit, the idea of going home again to place where no one returns to once they escape, the family issues - all of it really resonated with me. I highly recommend this book. I plan to track down all of his books.
Amy Stilgenbauer
Jul 11, 2014 Amy Stilgenbauer rated it really liked it
A clever, quick read with good pacing and well developed characters. I enjoyed my few days with this book. The theme of the book "Can you really go home again?" resonated with me as well. I am not from Detroit, but rather Appalachia and while many of the exact specifics are not the same, the feelings are quite similar. Whenever I get the "go home" call, I can easily imagine people asking me the same questions they ask David and Caroline, "But why are you here? Why in the world would you come bac ...more
Amy Rhodes
May 07, 2012 Amy Rhodes rated it really liked it
This novel snuck up on me; it's quite quiet and very unpretentious; just a contemporary story with a handful of well-drawn characters living fairly undramatic lives. In fact, in some ways, not so undramatic (a couple of offstage murders in the first chapter) but the author handles all this in such an evenhanded way that you never feel manipulated or played. I think this is a book that will continue to grow on me; the steady, calm storytelling is very impressive.
Robyn Ancker
Nov 25, 2012 Robyn Ancker rated it really liked it
An engaging, well-written story about different people going through life crises at different ages. They find hope and a new beginning in each other, in that most unlikely of places: Detroit, Michigan. Maybe you can't go home again, but you can make anywhere a home, even Detroit. And for those of us who spent any portion of our lives there, there are enough local references and hangouts that it brings back fond memories. Yes, of Detroit.
I was drawn to the book because of the title. It was not bad, but a little too neat, especially toward the end.

It took me about two fifths of the way through the book to realize that David, the protagonist, is white, which is weird because most characters' races are mentioned pretty early on. And then, after two hours of no mention, it seemed like suddenly there were a ton of references to his whiteness. Maybe I just missed something at the beginning? This is a danger of audiobooks. Anyway, it f
Feb 22, 2013 Maureen rated it did not like it
Wanted to be able to say nice things about Detroit but I think Lasser's weepy, weak-willed work temporarily put an obtuse rut into that.
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Scott Lasser is the author of four novels: Battle Creek, All I Could Get, The Year That Follows, and Say Nice Things About Detroit. His non-fiction has appeared in magazines ranging from Dealmaker (for which he wrote a regular book column) to the New Yorker. He splits his time between Los Angeles and Colorado.
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“Most people considered options a good thing, the American way, but one tended to squander those choices, or to choose badly, and then to call a bad outcome fate, as if the choices made had nothing to do with it.” 1 likes
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