Review: Revere Beach Boulevard

I bought Revere Beach Boulevard because there was a piece in my alumni magazine about a fellow writer and a fellow alumnus, and I read most of it while I was on a brief holiday in Sicily.

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Revere Beach Boulevard is a contemporary novel set in Revere, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. Four of the principal characters are an Italian-American family: Lucy, the mother, is dying of cancer; Vito, the father is a retired carpenter; Peter, a son in his forties, sells real estate and has a serious gambling addiction; Joanie, the older sister with a secret, is apparently a successful newsreader for a Boston TV station. The other characters – friends and acquaintances – are part of the immigrant culture of Family, Church, and Food, and as such, the novel does them justice. The plot revolves around Peter who is heavily in debt to the local Mafioso. He hasn’t the money to pay, and friends and family are largely losing patience, as is the malevolent Chelsea Eddie, who finds that he doesn’t hold all the cards. Joanne is about the run a TV special on criminals like Eddie.

Without revealing the outcome, the plot has all the elements of a well-written thriller. I found it difficult to put it down. But there is much more to it than a thriller: the examination of values like love, trust, faith and above all: who we are as human beings. The characters, particularly Peter, Vito and Alfonse – the police chief with a secret – are very real and imperfectly human.

Without detracting much from the value and readability of this novel, one aspect that I didn’t particularly like was that each of the characters told a part of the story. This meant that one often had to read a whole paragraph before one knew which of about nine characters was talking. I felt that Peter and an omniscient narrator could have told the story equally well. I had minor reservations about two of the characters. I didn’t think that Chelsea Eddie would worry so much about what Joanie would say about him on the air: any Mafioso worth his salt has an anti-libel lawyer on standby, and Joanie had no solid evidence. Maybe is she were FBI rather than a newsreader? For me, Joanie’s loss of self-control during her visit to her dying mother didn’t ring true. She is a highly-paid TV executive who fought her way up to that position. Distressed, but not an injured child. Neither of these quibbles had any impact on the splendid plot.

The final proof-reading of the text could have been better. Frequently there were extra spaces between words, and hyphens were used instead of dashes to offset parenthetical phrases. For me, this caused confusion.

I certainly recommend Revere Beach Boulevard. It is unusual; it is interesting; it is captivating; it is well-written

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