cover image City Below CL

City Below CL

James Carroll. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $22.95 (422pp) ISBN 978-0-395-59070-6

From the author of Mortal Friends comes a pithy, absorbing and piquantly topical tale again set in a vividly evoked Boston--and again probably bestseller material. Here Carroll writes of a bond between two Irish brothers that is battered by gusts of furious love, guilt, betrayal and jealousy. In 1960, Terry Doyle, a sober older son marked for the priesthood, chooses instead to follow his black friend Bright in campaigning for the Kennedys; he later becomes a successful, though self-loathing, businessman. In his arduous ascent, he leaves behind Charlestown, a fractious working-class enclave that boils with racial hatred during Boston's busing crisis, and his younger brother Nick, a sweet-talking crook who hitches his star to the Mafia. Carroll's superbly detailed vision of Boston is at once elegiac and hard-edged: the tight-knit embrace of Charlestown turns to ugliness as a mob spits on black schoolchildren and rages at Ted Kennedy, their last and most tarnished prince. Occasionally predictable plot turns--twice fueled by the cliche that Catholic guilt insists on destruction as payment for pleasure--mar an otherwise excellent chronicle of three decades during which starry-eyed idealism was brought low by political cynicism and personal greed. Author tour. (May)