©2003 Richard Price; (P)2003 Books on Tape, Inc.
"Masterful detail, vivid scene-setting, and acutely observed, naturalistic dialogue." (Booklist)
As noted in a review for Lush Life, Wire fans will recognize themes and richly drawn, nuanced characters (even names are recycled - Omar, Butchie) from the two novels available on audible.com. Both are narrated beautifully, and I thought Samaritan was even better than Lush Life.
Having really enjoyed Lush Life I tried out this book but was disappointed. Among other flaws was too much pop psychology, and that the book seemed to be about 3 hours too long. Also, I don't think the author adequately explored the white-black dimensions he set up with his plot. After all, the protoganist was a white Jewish guy who returns to the overwhelmingly minority housing project where he grew up in the '60s. Yet, nothing much is done with an obvious racial conflict. The protaganist was just one of the boys. As an adult, he's just a middle class guy who is spending time with characters from his childhood (or their children). In general, all the characters seem very poorly developed. The narrator was very good in eliciting voices and dialects from all the non-white characters; his voicing of the white protaganist was terrible and greatly detracted from the listening experience.
Every character is nuanced to contrast the stereotypes. His dialogues are uncanny, direct and intrinsic towards character development. This is a snapshot of life in emotional confusion and realism. Though the narration isn't quite as great as in "Lush Life" the story is still worth the listen.
Price is a great writer who has an uncanny ear for the dialect and expressions of the places he writes about (where I grew up). Unfortunately, someone hired the wrong guy to do the narration. It is hard to listen to someone with a courtly Southern sounding accent who barely even tries to capture the essence of the New Jersey characters who populate this book. Bobby Canavale, who narrated Price's Lush Life, would have been a much better choice. Allen just does not do justice to the voices of the characters who live in the gritty towns across the Hudson from New York. A good story that could have made great listening with the right reader.
While trying to "help" is Ray really just a narcissist? Is he looking to "feel good" at the expense of others, even his own daughter? What lengths will a person go to trying to prove to at least themselves their honest intentions?
I did not enjoy this book because it was slow moving, drawn out way too long, and it was difficult to distinguish the voices of the characters. After a while, the plot was lost as the author tried too hard to demonstrate the psychological aspect of the main character. I found myself shutting off the book many times, and eventually, I finished the book and felt disappointed. I would not recommend this credit.
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