Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Sunday Book Review, September 18, 2011: Moonlight Mile

If you've already read "Moonlight Mile," by Dennis Lehane, you may think Madame L should be writing this review around Christmas time because the story has many deliberate similarities to the original story of the perfect child born in a stable.

But, no. If you haven't read it, don't wait until Christmas, because it's not about the Christ child, nor about perfect parents, nor about the Son of God, although the love of the innocent child does save some of the characters from immediate effects of their sins.

Only the two children in this story, a newborn baby girl and a feisty four-year-old girl, are perfect. The book does have a virgin mother, some wise guys (Russian mobsters) if not wise men, a monstrous Herod and his equally monstrous wife, and a Joseph figure, the hero, who wants to protect the virgin mother and the infant. And to protect his perfect, feisty four-year-old daughter from the life our TV "popular" culture seems to be preparing all little girls for.

But the child's birth mother is an addict, the virgin mother figure is a runaway and the child of an addict, and, wow, too many of the characters are addicts and thugs to make this a traditional Christmas story.

If you like hard-boiled crime novels and you can get past the gritty characters and their frequent swear words and other vulgarities, you'll enjoy this book. The author is an old pro, as are his two main characters, Kenzie and Gennaro, now married and known by their other names of Patrick and Angie MacKenzie.

You may guess the ending, because Patrick and Angie really ARE the good guys, but some of the other guys we all wish and hope would be good guys turn out to be not so good, some of the bad guys are not so bad, and Madame L promises that you won't be able to figure out which is which or unravel all the details until almost the very end. 

Dennis Lehane's books have been made into films (Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, and Shutter Island), which Madame L can't comment on because she hasn't seen any of them. Madame L is actually afraid to see the movies because in her experience these kinds of movies are more horrific and vulgar than she can stand, and besides that they don't live up to the promise of the books. 

Is this --- a hard-boiled crime novel --- the best we can hope for any more in contemporary Christmas stories? 

Not at all! And in the months leading up to Christmas, Madame L will review some of her favorite contemporary Christmas stories.

But the book does do this, which we want Christmas stories to do: It reaffirms the potential for Godly love and human goodness, for love and trust, and for righteous people to help save lost souls.

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