The past is like a rain long gone. There are remnants of it here and there, sometimes in an idle state, fearful of poking its ugly head out. Sometimes it gives you its smell, a sweet fragrance at one moment; at other times a kind of smell which is intense – you can feel it in your nostrils but there is seemingly nothing to suggest it. Even when you move on to the present and then the future, there are threads of the past that keeps coming back at you – reminding you of where you come from, like a sentinel of your life.
The lives of three boys playing on a street in Boston are changed forever with the abduction of one of them. He returns apparently unhurt but very emotionally scarred as we find out 25 years later. Now grown up men with families, Sean Devine, Jimmy Marcus and Dave Boyle are apparently not the same ‘friends’ they were years back. A tragedy strikes in the form of Jimmy’s eldest daughter’s death on the eve of his second daughter’s first holy communion. A bored Dave saunters the bars of Boston but returns home covered in blood. Sean is now a policeman and just returns to duty after a suspension. He is assigned the case along with his Sergeant and the investigation progresses even as Jimmy is worried sick about his daughter and is devastated when he realizes she has been murdered. Dave’s wife Celeste is equally worried about the blood on her husband and doesn’t really believe his account of the night. Several missteps, misgivings and misunderstandings later, the story concludes quite unexpectedly leaving you with a heavy heart and thoughts about the mystery that is the past; posing ‘what if’ questions which struggles for answers.
This is a novel that has been crafted very delicately. You don’t really feel this is a murder mystery but you rather feel that this is a lesson on the roller-coaster that is life. Even though Dave and Jimmy continued their friendship from boyhood to adulthood, there is that air of discomfort when Sean, Jimmy and Dave are together after a quarter of a century. The presence of Sean was kind of acerbic to the whole meeting – probably because Sean had the air of a cop and Dave held a secret. Then there is Annabeth – Jimmy’s second wife but a loving step-mom to the daughter that passed. Jimmy and Annabeth are shattered but somehow hold the pieces of their broken hearts together – I got a feeling they were a worried lot about their two little daughters Nadine and Sara. And of course, Celeste, who practically tears her hair out to figure out what’s happening with Dave. Dave and Celeste’s son Michael remains a sorry figure among all the debris that life throws at them.
Man’s biggest shortcoming is his inability to understand others. Even when you know what happened in the past, you struggle to fathom if that could leave an indelible mark – so much as to erase the persona into something totally hazy. The past is the key with which you can unlock the present. Realizations are a result of the mistakes you make in the present because you did not understand or reveal what happened in the past.
That’s ‘Mystic River’ by Dennis Lehane – mysterious and deep and one which leaves you with a host of emotions – agony, anger, sadness, apathy and even relief to name a few. There may be other wordless emotions as I found out when I completed reading this. A very engaging read with insights into life is this different murder mystery. I’m giving a rating of 4.5 on 5 for this novel which has also been made into a powerful motion picture.