Sunday, January 25, 2009

Lush Life by Richard Price

Matty Clark is a NYPD homicide detective in a Brooklyn neighborhood that's been in transition for decades, even centuries. Today it is a mixture of Orthodox Jews, various Asian populations, and various people of color. Economically it ranges from the PJs (projects) with families living on the edge of poverty to newer upscale residents. Matty's two sons, The Big One and The Other One, live upstate with his divorced wife and regularly get in trouble with the law.

Eric Cash is a twenty-something, personable and successful as a manager in a fashionable restaurant, but driven by demons asking for more. Something more creative, maybe a writer or and actor. Neither his creative aspirations nor his love life match his expectations. Eric also gets in trouble with the law.

Tristan, a good kid from the PJs, baby sits for his three younger step-siblings, while getting beaten by his ex-stepfather for thanks. Among the other kids, he is invisible unless his is the butt of jokes. He writes raps and dreams of a better social life.

These three lives wind and unwind around a accidental murder during a late-night robbery gone awry.

In Lush Life, Richard Price creates a broad array of interesting and sympathetic characters, but the attraction to this story is how many small (it seemed like a good idea at the time) decisions by many people (nice, sincere ones all) leading their independent lives somehow work together to create a royal mess.

When the premise is fatalistic and depressing, the humanity of each character leaves the reader with a warm, uplifting feeling. The writing is excellent, easy to read - a page turner.

Only once in the book, I was thrown out of the story when a simile seemed completely foreign the the characters and setting.
Tristan quick-stooping over [the murder victim], like to take a bite out of his face, hissing, "Oh!" Little Dap hissing, "Go!" yanking him out of there, and then the two of them just flew straight south on Eldridge. ... They swooped around one drunk couple like white water past a rock. (emphasis added)

No comments: