Peasblossom (Anna)'s Reviews > Sutphin Boulevard

Sutphin Boulevard by Santino Hassell
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Jul 01, 2015

it was amazing

I have so many things to say about Sutphin Boulevard. I am going to do my best to talk about why I loved it so much without making this review All About Me. ;)

The single most useful word I’ve though of to describe this book is REAL. If you have any experience with addiction, personal or peripheral, you will likely recognize Michael Rodriguez's danger, his descent, his tailspin, and his recovery… as I did. It all rings very, very true. My own early life experience led me down this path beside a loved one, and I have never read a description of life on the inside of this vortex that felt more familiar to me. It’s not a pretty place to be, but it's not solely bleak, either. Most accounts forget that there are bright spaces within the gloom. Not this one.

The writing is consistent with Hassell’s now familiar voice. Firm and unapologetic, it embraces the intensity of life rather than sugar-coating it, and walks that line between elegant and dark that has such a ring of truth about it. The rhythm and flow of the dialogue, the slang, and the tone he manages to convey, even in print, work together to make the reader feel incredibly present. It's kind of amazing. The chemistry between Michael and his best friend, Nunzio Medici, is, well, pretty delicious, and becomes the catalyst for the ways in which their lifelong friendship is tested while the pair attempts to learn how to love one another in a new way.

But it’s really Michael I want to talk about. Michael and his wounds. Michael and his pure love for his friend and his failing effort to manage the mental contortions he forces upon himself in his struggle to reconcile what he wants with what he believes he must endure.

Michael is an embattled soul. His journey is deeply emotional, and takes him to some pretty dark places within himself, but Hassell’s use of other characters, primarily Nunzio, to position Michael within his darkness alleviates so much of the pain, both for Michael himself and for us as readers. Michael is suffering on so many levels. He is battling things that we all face: the uncomfortable juxtaposition between our inherited families and our chosen families; the conflict between who we are, who others expect us to be, and who we ultimately decide to be; the inherent inconsistencies in the human condition; and finding ways to deal with our stress levels and with loss.  

Hassell deftly balances Michael’s darkness with Nunzio’s light, and it’s part of the author's magic that we are able to connect with Nunzio and understand the depth of his love, his constancy, and his commitment to Michael despite never being allowed into his head. The trust between the pair runs so deep that I automatically understood that even if Michael *never* managed to pull himself together and participate in his own happiness, Nunzio would adjust his expectations accordingly and continue to give Michael whatever parts of himself would be accepted. That’s love, folks, and it's beautiful.

Despite the intense subject matter and the uncertainty inherent in Michael’s struggle, the outcome is neither facile nor forced. The resolution that Michael and Nunzio build for themselves feels natural, healthy, and permanent. I think maybe the reason that the ending is my favorite part of a book in which there’s so much else to love is that I feel like I know Michael and Nunzio (in some ways I have been Nunzio), and really, this is exactly the kind of outcome that I truly wish for everyone whose lives have been touched by addiction. Only in true love (of any stripe) can any of us find the comfort and safety necessary to build a future. And I think that's pretty wonderful.
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Reading Progress

June 24, 2015 – Started Reading
June 26, 2015 – Finished Reading
July 1, 2015 – Shelved

Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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message 1: by Lenore (new) - added it

Lenore I love this review. It captures the spirit of the book beautifully. Exactly like I saw it.


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