Review: North River by Pete Hamill

Depression-era Manhattan, seen through the eyes of a Great War field doctor, James Delaney, turned general practitioner and, in some ways, his 3-year-old grandson, Carlito.

When Carlito is left on his grandfather's doorstep, Delaney must face his own self-neglect, his frustration toward his daughter, and the loss of his wife, who'd run off after he returned from Europe. Delaney hires Rosa, a Sicilian immigrant, to care for Carlito when he's at work. As a doctor, Delaney has connections to all the West Village, even the mob, which jumpstarts the action of the book. Over the course of the story, wounds open, are cleaned and treated, and a family reforms in slow, strange ways.

I've read Snow in August and Forever, and I didn't connect with either one at all. I'd read some of his nonfiction, though, and really liked Hamill for Hamill -- he's a Manhattan legend to me, like Joe Mitchell, and that's what kept me coming back to his fiction.

It paid off. The tone of this story was absolutely perfect. The pacing was perfect. The characters were perfect. The scenes he painted, the places he took me, the emotions he gave me were all so powerful. Bloody brilliant, this book.

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