My inspiration is back!! Melanie Jones has posted another chapter in her series The 50 States of Literature, and has conveniently chosen a state for which I was stumped — thank you! I stumbled upon Jones’ series last spring and decided to carry on the torch when she took a break for the summer. Here’s her pick for Massachusettes:
Before Clint Eastwood brought his masterful adaptation to screen, Mystic River was a novel by Dennis Lehane, the story of three boys in working-class Boston. Dave, Sean, and Jimmy may be adults, but they have never truly left the side corner where Dave was kidnapped and subsequently molested by two fake police officers. Decades later, the three reunite when Jimmy’s daughter Katie is found murdered in the park, with Sean now a state trooper and Dave now the primary suspect.
Lehane renders the Flats neighborhood of East Buckingham, where Jimmy and Dave grew up, in exquisite detail. He paints a town of “cramped corner stores, small playgrounds, and butcher shops where meat, still pink with blood, hung in the windows” in stark opposition to the Point world of parochial schools and foreman jobs Sean inhabits. This is an area sharply divided between insiders and outsiders, the divisions and unities as deeply etched as the “stench of warm chocolate” the boys’ fathers bring home from the Coleman Candy factory where they work. Jimmy is a former convict trapped in poverty and rage, Sean is isolated by guilt and unfulfilled yearning, and Dave’s fears are too terrifying for even him to face.
Lehane’s greatest asset, then, is his ability to use his setting to illustrate the comforting yet claustrophobic ties of ethnicity, religion, and family, where guilt and loyalty frequently intersperse and the shadow of one event has the power to transform generations.
I have not read any of Lehane’s work, but I loved the film version of Mystic River and Gone, Baby, Gone — and specifically noted the writing in Gone, Baby, Gone. Time to check out the originals! Thank you and welcome back, Melanie Jones!
Check out her other picks below… (check out my other picks, too! )
Photo by marxchivist
First, from Melanie Jones:
Alabama: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (check out my To Kill A Mockingbird Sample Kit!) Michigan: The Virgin Suicides by Jeffery Eugenides Alaska: The Man Who Swam With Beavers by Nancy Lord Arizona: The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver North Dakota: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger Vermont: The Secret History by Donna Tartt Hawaii: Heads by Harry by Lois-ann Yamanaka Georgia: Leaving Atlanta by Tayari Jones
And I went out on my own for…
Florida: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Nora Zeale Hurston Minnesota: In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O’Brien Wisconsin: When Madeline Was Young by Jane Hamilton Louisiana: Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells (Jones’ pick) and The Awakening by Kate Chopin (my pick) Colorado: Plainsong by Kent Haruf Maryland: Anything by Anne Tyler Georgia: Awakening by Kate Chopin Ohio: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison Arkansas: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou Virginia: John Grisham Idaho: Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson North Carolina: Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons Tennesee: Run by Ann Patchett New Jersey: Anything by Janet Ivanovich Texas: Anything by Elmer Kelton Connecticut: The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx Montana: The Big Sky by A.B. Guthrie Utah: Edward Abbey South Carolina: Pat Conroy Iowa: Wallace Stegner Pennsylvania: John Updike and James Michener Missouri: Mark Twain New Hampshire: Robert Frost Kentucky: Robert Penn Warren
Wondering where your state is? Coming soon… In the meantime, weigh in on future picks!