Laura's Reviews > Live by Night

Live by Night by Dennis Lehane
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's review
Jun 05, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: 2012-mt-bookpile, old-reads

I enjoyed this, but something kept me from loving it. Maybe it was that there seemed to be no clear purpose to Joe's life? Or maybe it was something else? Whatever, it was a good solid 3, but didn't quite make it to a 4.

Ultimately this is a story of fathers and sons, and of friendship and loyalty. The father/son pairings here (and one father/daughter) are so messed up it's sad: Joseph and his father, for example, don't like each other and Dad even helps the police find Joe and beat him nearly senseless. So clearly it's friendship and loyalty that are more critical to survival and happiness than familial relationships, right? Except how do you know when your friends are faithful?

Joe has to deal with that on all sides: his friend Dion, for example, might be true, or he might have been the guy who sold out Joe, Dino and Paulo during the botched Pittsburgh bank robbery. Is Maso really looking out for Joe (in part because of Joe's father, in part because later Joe's organization makes a ton of money running rum from Florida), or will he give in to pressure to "leave something" for his son, Digger, an idiot not worthy of the honor? Are the women he meets, Emma and Graciela, really on his side?

That's the more interesting stuff - the parts about Prohibition and speakeasies and the Mob ("this thing we're in") are less so. Perhaps it's because they're a little glossed over, described but left a little pale on the page in favor of the relationships. Even more important is Joe's insistence that he's not a killer, not a gangster, he's an outlaw, and how those mental gymnastics work.

ARC provided by publisher.

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