Coronado Makes the Grade

The Boston Herald gave CORONADO an “A” in its recent review. We’ve reprinted it here in its entireity:

Famous for such works as “Mystic River” and “A Drink Before the War,” one would think that Massachusetts author Dennis Lehane couldn’t possibly outdo himself. You’d be wrong.

Lehane’s newest book, “Coronado,” a collection of five short stories and a two-act play, is a brilliant, insightful and intriguing literary voyage. Lehane’s ability to create complex and believable characters using simple prose is his best asset, one that he uses to full advantage.

He starts off strong with the moody Southern drama “Running Out of Dog.” Set in rural South Carolina, this is a fascinating story of the relationship between two men – one, a disillusioned Vietnam veteran trying to make sense of life; the other, an unstable ne’er-do-well whose dangerous infatuation with a childhood friend threatens his life.

Lehane’s genius is in the intricacy of the relationship. He draws these characters so realistically that their eventual downfall is especially poignant.

Though a native of Dorchester, Lehane has a strong grasp of Southern life. The characters and the fictional town are finely sketched. Even more impressive is Lehane’s ability to touch upon some of the most fascinating aspects of the human condition: the devastating effects of poverty on the soul, the battle between hope and fate and the inexplicable nature of human sexuality.

“ICU,” a story detailing one man’s journey to learn the meaning of empathy and love, is one of the more fascinating pieces. Tipping its hat to Franz Kafka’s “The Trial,” “ICU” follows Daniel, a non-descript Everyman who is being followed by mysterious men in suits.

One gets the impression that Daniel is being judged, that the surreal circumstances surrounding him are meant to somehow force him to confront his shortcomings. Once again, Lehane allows this character to develop at his own pace and merely sets things in motion. Absent of any moralistic condemnation, Lehane’s approach to Daniel doesn’t seek to accomplish any social, political or moral agenda.

“Coronado: A Play in Two Acts” is Lehane’s masterpiece. Interweaving the lives of several bar patrons, the short story-turned-play is a clever and insightful exercise in observing human beings at their best and worst. And if the plot isn’t enough, Lehane throws in a few twists you don’t see coming.

“Coronado” is an exciting, frenetic read that draws you into the lives of characters, lifestyles and locales that are not only colorful but engaging. Locations are vivid and crisp, characters are memorable and, most importantly, the story lines dig into you and leave their mark.


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