Jim's Reviews > Damascus

Damascus by Joshua Mohr
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's review
Apr 09, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: small-press, legion-of-vermin
Read from August 02 to September 01, 2011

The myth of the non-dysfunctional family may be a relic of the past, but isn’t it interesting that when you take society’s least functional people and put them together, they act just like a family? That seems to be the premise behind Joshua Mohr’s Damascus. The novel, Mohr’s third, is set in San Francisco’s Mission District and takes its name from a dive bar owned by a man named Owen who brings cheer to his customers by wearing a Santa Claus suit to the bar every day.

Sadly, the only cheer Owen’s customers crave is the kind that comes in bottles. The motley crew includes a terminally ill cancer patient, a sadistically violent veteran and a woman who gives hand jobs in the bathroom for money.

Owen is only a bender away from becoming just like his customers, but he’s a good person at heart. His niece, Daph, recognizes this and tries to help him make Damascus a better place. But when she talks her uncle into letting her friend hang her controversial art on the walls, the consequences are disastrous.

Mohr writes as if he’s logged hours in places like Damascus: “… an old Tom Waits song seeped through the walls from the jukebox, the sink dripped, the toilet ran, the light flickered its paltry wattage like the gloomiest disco ball in the world.”

With a remarkably subtle hand, Mohr leads the reader through a minefield of explosive topics: the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, living with cancer and dealing with addiction. Damascus transcends all that and is nothing less than a primer on how to love those incapable of loving themselves. And what family couldn’t use more of that?
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Reading Progress

08/02/2011 page 108
48.0% "Enjoying the third installation of Mohr's "Mission Trilogy.""
08/04/2011 page 224
100.0% "Powerful finish. I'm all verklempt." 1 comment
05/16/2013 marked as: read
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