Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

North River

Posted by nliakos on July 9, 2014

by Pete Hamill (Little Brown, 2007)

I’ve liked the other Pete Hamill novels I’ve read (Snow in August, a favorite of mine, and Forever).  Both were infused with a magical realism that made it difficult to distinguish between reality and fantasy. North River has no magic in it beyond a couple of visitations by a ghost/visions of a vanished wife. Like the other two novels, it is set in New York, this time in a tough neighborhood in Lower Manhattan; North River, I discovered thanks to Google, is just another name for the southern part of the Hudson between Manhattan and New Jersey (I grew up in Hackensack, but I never knew that!). The Depression is in full swing, Europe is gearing up for the Second World War, and Dr. Jim Delaney, his wife and daughter both gone, is keeping the promise he made to himself to return to his old neighborhood and take care of his people. His simple, lonely life is complicated by the shooting of a wartime friend of his who happens to be a mob leader, the sudden appearance of his two-year-old grandson (left in the vestibule by his errant daughter), and the necessity of hiring someone to watch the child while he works: Rose, an Italian woman in the U.S. without papers. These three main characters are all very likable; I kept expecting that one of them would get kidnapped or murdered by the opposing Mafia gang. There is tension there, but not a lot of gratuitous violence. It’s a pretty simple story, but it kept me engaged all the way.

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