This novel represents a major shift for author Dennis Lehane, known best for his crime fiction. The Given Day has an epic sweep encompassing baseball, the rise of labor unions, racism, and vicious Boston politics. You’ll meet a temperamental and insecure Babe Ruth and a cold and devious young J. Edgar Hoover. I never thought I’d want to spend 700 pages of my life in the midst of the 1919 Boston policemen’s strike but Lehane can make a reader want to be there and not leave.
Lehane was pretty much unknown until he had the good fortune to be mentioned as an aside in the opening paragraph of Stephen King’s review of a Harry Potter novel in the New York Times Book Review. (King described the Harry Potter novels, as well as Lehane’s, as “a lifeline” for him during the summer after he was struck by a car.) Eight years later in September 2008 Lehane gets his own NYTBR front page review!
Though Lehane’s early work is strictly in the detective genre, it exhibits a profound sense of place (mainly of working class neighborhoods in greater Boston) and of class. These same themes run throughout The Given Day. He has the same voice but a more expansive story to tell. Many of you know Lehane from the movie versions of Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone. Maybe you’d like to spend time with some of his books.