Even though the title of this book implies that it is a story about a gangster… and part of it certainly is… I think that the real story is about the small town to which he comes and goes. Snapshots of life. That’s as close as I can come to accurately describing what it felt like to read this book.
The story spans the lifetime of several characters. As each chapter unfolds, we are immediately welcomed into their experiences of small-town life. Just as the people change over time, so does the town. There is a curious maturity that we are privileged to watch unfold. But more than that, we are invited to take a walk down Main Street and be a part of it all. It’s an emotional journey that is completely unexpected… and wonderful. Over the course of the story, we are invited to examine the connections that bind a place to its people, and the people to their home.
When I began to read, I thought this would be a book about the inside workings of the titular gangster. Eagerly I read, hoping to get the skinny on him and his outfit. I was hoping to watch his crimes from the inside and watch the how the community endured under his influence. What I got was better. Reading this story, I was able to see inside the gangster himself. I was a witness to his thoughts as a “regular” person who loves his wife, supports his community, and delights in being an “average” person away from his “job”. Ms. Passick skillfully uses individually distinctive dialect styles and vocabulary to help us enjoy a sensation of really getting to know the characters as people, as if we were sitting at the same table, riding in the same car, or standing near the same hunting blind while conversations float in and out of our ears.
Reading this book gave me the sensation of watching the town pull out a photo book. I listened to it tell the story of the years it remembered, and the secrets it kept about the interesting, and sometimes unconventional people who lived there. As time marched on, the town reflected the distinct experiences of each soul and how living side-by-side impacted each of them in very different ways. The story was brisk and unpredictable, making it a genuinely enjoyable read.
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