Thursday, April 1, 2010

Mystic River - Dennis Lehane (audio)


After I read and reviewed my first Dennis Lehane book, The Given Day, several bloggers told me Mystic River was his best work. I'd considered picking it up, but was waylaid by the audio of Shutter Island, inspired by the release of the movie. So here I am, my third Lehane book, and on the verge of adding him to the very prestigious list of authors who are _____ - worthy. (Insert appropriate word...crush, drool, panty, obsession, whatever feels right.)

The movie received such huge accolades, with its star-studded cast and trunkload of Oscar nominations and two statues, it was hard not to at least have a clue about the plot. There are some friends, there is a murder, something about molestation. I must have known that I would read the book someday though, because I managed to keep the important spoilers at bay and with childlike enthusiasm blasted through the five audio discs in a couple of days.

I was right, there are some friends. They grew up together in the old neighborhood, and were all permanently altered when one of them was kidnapped off the street in broad daylight, held captive and molested over a period of four days before he escaped. They grew up and apart, one becoming a policeman, one a mob boss, and one a sometimes-employed underachiever. Their lives intersect again when one of their daughters is murdered. The friends (and their wives) are forced to consider some difficult questions. Can anyone be trusted? This is a study in human frailties, in all of its disturbing hopelessness.

First and foremost, I was horrified when I learned that I had gotten hold of an abridged version of the audio, hence the reason why it is only five discs long. (I really wish I hadn't known.) Upon further investigation, I was not able to find an unabridged version anywhere, except in the form of a cassette. *Sigh* With that being said, though, it still worked. Damaged characters, emotional angst, all in five discs. Unlike The Given Day, which seemed a few discs too long with description and plots to spare, this story was abrupt, concise, focused and raw. Could there have been more character development? Yes absolutely, and perhaps there was in the unabridged 10 discs. These people were complex and messy, and we barely scratched the surface with some of them. I was not left unfulfilled however. Lehane packs so much intensity in such a small space, you finish the book with a long release of breath you had been holding for awhile. A long "hooooh"! And you walk away done. It is dark. It is murky and thick. I'm not thinking you would want it longer than it is.

The narrator, David Strathairn, held his own. He is no Tom Stechschulte, who took the audio of Shutter Island and made it into a masterpiece. He is no Simon Vance, who makes my ears happy and my body swoon. But he delivered the intensity necessary to get the job done. Would Stechschulte have taken this book to a five star like Shutter Island? I don't think so.

In the spirit of obsession, are there any other Lehane novels I need to read? I know he wrote Gone, Baby, Gone, as well as a few others. Any recommendations?

4 out of 5 stars




21 comments:

Melody said...

I so want to read this book!! I enjoyed reading Shutter Island so much that I told myself I've to read the rest of the books by Dennis Lehane! Unfortunately, I couldn't find Mystic River in several bookstores but I did buy Gone, Baby, Gone.

I just wish the movie (Shutter Island) will be released sooner!!!

Susan said...

I almost never listen to books, unless I'm driving a long distance and it's something I'm not likely to want to hold in my hands. That said, I can't imagine condensing this book from 10 discs down to 5. I have a feeling that quite a bit of character development was lost in that.

I loved the book, disturbing as it was. And I thought the movie was good, but nowhere near as good as the book. Tim Robbins just creeped me out, and yes, I realize that was the intention, but creeped me out to the point that he was difficult (for me) to watch. I thought the other actors were well-cast.

caite said...

I haven't read any of Lehane's books, including this one, but I did like the movie.
Even if Sean Penn was in it...and I really don't like Sean Penn. ;-)

Julie P. said...

I thought this book was soooo good!

bermudaonion said...

I read the book and really enjoyed it. I have to tell you, I checked an audio book out of the library this week without looking at the title simply because I saw it was narrated by Simon Vance and I remembered your crush on him.

Serena said...

I have not read this book yet, but I loved the movie.

Happy national poetry month!

The Bumbles said...

Hmm - I agree with Susan - I can't imagine skimping on the development of these particular characters. Why would they even make an abridged version? The book isn't very long to begin with as I recall. In a discussion on Goodreads the topic was books that disturbed you. I put threw this one into the mix. It just ripped my heart out. Excellent story telling.

I thought the movie followed the book really well - though they left out all the details from when he was kidnapped - just kind of made the point and then moved on. The cast was amazing and Eastwood's direction captured the tone really well.

This is the only Lehane I have read. I did see Gone Baby Gone though.

Avid Reader said...

I've read almost everything by Lehane and really love his work. He has a way of creating characters that get deep under your skin. I had the same experience with the audio. I NEVER read abridged books, but read that one, not realizing it was abridged and I could tell by how choppy the plot was compared to his other books. It was so disappointing.

Nymeth said...

Confession time: I'm the only person I know who didn't like this movie. I actually actively disliked it, and I can't even explain why! I wonder if the book would work for me. I'm glad you found it a worthwhile read (well, a worthwhile listen in this case), even if it was abridged!

Craftymoose Crafts said...

Sounds like something I would enjoy, too!

I know with the volume of reviews you do, it would be impossible to read every book, thus the audios, but I am wondering if you enjoy both formats equally?

Zibilee said...

I just bought this book at the used bookstore across town. It looks like I made a good choice, though it does sound dark and sinister. I have seen the film version of Gone, Baby, Gone and boy did it pack a punch! I think that you might like that one, and if you do read it, you can do another read and watch review! I am glad to hear this was a good read for you, but sorry to hear that you had to make do with the abridged version. That would have drove me nuts!

Alyce said...

You know I've never really thought about if before, but I wonder how much say an author has about what get cut to make the abridged version.

Iliana said...

One of these days I must read something by Lehane. I'm actually surprised I haven't given my liking for mystery/crime books. I totally want to see Shutter Island!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I hate when I get abridged versions by mistake! But usually they read just fine and you wonder, hmmm, how come it was ever longer?!!

Trisha said...

This book sounds wonderful. I adore and own the movie, but it never crossed my mind to read the book. I will have to check it out. Thanks for the review!

Darlene said...

I really enjoyed this book when I read it. I've never listened to it though but I would be none to happy to have the abridged version. That's the one thing about audios I don't like cause I want the full story.

Kathleen said...

The movie was so powerful. I just remember sitting in the theater with my friend and feeling torn up inside. It seems like the book is less intense. I should give it a read one of these days.

Alice Teh said...

I need to get the other Lehane books. I read SHUTTER ISLAND last year and boy, I loved it! I'm glad the narrator did a wonderful job with the abridged audiobook.

Beth F said...

I loved Mystic River (in print) -- and have always wanted to read more, but was afraid that none would be as good. I'll pick up Shutter Island this summer, I think.

Anna said...

I bought this book ages ago, but sadly I haven't read it yet. When I get around to reorganizing my piles of books, I'm going to have to dig this one out and dust it off.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

scoutsmommy10 said...

I loved the book. I read it about the time the movie came out, so I could avoid most of the spoilers. For me, it was the best of the LeHane works so far. For me, audiobooks are for long flights so I do not typically listen to them, but thanks for telling me who the good readers are.