Edward's Reviews > The Turnaround

The Turnaround by George Pelecanos
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's review
Nov 28, 2010

really liked it

I haven't felt this tense in reading a novel since I was 12 years old and racing through the Tarzan books of Edgar Rice Burroughs and the Fu-Manchu ones of Sax Rohmer. Pelecanos is covering familiar ground, that of crime-ridden black neighborhoods of the Baltimore (he worked as a writer on the script of the tv series, THE WIRE), and the tenseness comes from realizing that particularly brutal violence can occur at any time and hoping that decent people will be spared.
Pelecanos always has compassion for his characters, even for the ones who go wrong. This novel begins with three white teenagers who get themselves into trouble in a black neighborhood after taunting three black youths. One is killed, one is brutally beaten, and the other escapes. Flash forward 30 years to see what has become of these five surviving characters, now middle-aged with children of their own. The psychic wounds are still there, but now Pelecanos is more interested in describing what their commonalities are, the "turnaround" in their behavior, rather than what separated them 30 years earlier. He doesn't downplay the violence and crime that still exists in the city, but there is a surprisingly sweet ending, one I think that is earned.

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