Bob’s church is closing. That, I think, is the central metaphor of The Drop, a masterful novel by Dennis Lehane.
Bob loves his church, and goes to mass every day. But he never communes, because he refuses to make confession. He loves the old church’s traditional beauty. He finds a kind of peace there. But the Boston diocese can no longer support it, due to legal obligations to victims of priestly abuse.
Bob is a nice guy. People like him. But he’s lonely. Women don’t find him attractive. His only real friend is his boss, his cousin Marv. He and Marv set out to be gangsters once, years back, trying to be tough. But then the Chechen mob moved in, showing them what tough really meant. They took over Marv’s bar, and Marv and Bob sank back, almost with relief, into semi-respectability. Except that the bar is now a “drop,” where from time to time gambling money is collected for pick-up by the mob’s messengers.
Then one night, Bob hears a noise from a garbage can. He opens it to find a puppy there, bloodied and abandoned. A girl watches him rescue the animal, and in one night Bob acquires both a pet and a (sort of) girlfriend.
Bob doesn’t know it, but people are making plans, intending to use him as a pawn.
They are making a big mistake.
This is one of Lehane’s best novels, in my opinion, which is saying a lot. Not only does he ratchet up the tension mercilessly, but he plots with elegance. I wasn’t prepared at all for the conclusion.
Christianity plays a major role in The Drop. I don’t think Lehane is advancing any kind of apology for Christianity, but he asks the right questions, and poses the big problem (in my view) entirely correctly.
Highly recommended. Not for kids, or those easily shocked.