This story opens shortly after Christmas and we see a group of customers gather to celebrate the life of a missing friend who disappeared after leaving Cousin Marv's bar, ten years ago. The reader gets the feeling that there will be more to this part of the story in the future.
Bob Saginowski is a bartender at Cousin Marv's. He's on his way home one night when he hears a whimpering noise coming from a dumpster. He finds an abandoned puppy. As he's getting the puppy from the dumpster, a woman raises her window and yells at him to get out of her garbage. When the woman, Nadia, learns what Bob was doing she becomes more friendly.
Bob is a loner who attends daily Mass but never receives communion. There is something in his past that causes this. When Cousin Marv orders him to take down the Christmas decorations on December 27th, we get an early view of Marv's nature. We also see what a Scrooge he is when he objects to Bob's kindness to a senior citizen who Bob allows to run a never ending tab.
Marv used to own the bar but it is now owned by a Chechen mobster. It is used for betting and as a drop for the mob.
I enjoyed the discussion of the closing of Bob's church to be used for commercial purposes. The closing of Catholic Churches is a major problem today due to declining attendance at Mass and the aging of the priests.
Bob's solitary life reminded me of the character from the 1950s movie, Marty. The warmhearted butcher in the film seemed like Bob who didn't have any friends before Nadia. I also sympathise with Bob who came to love his new puppy but the original owner appeared and wanted the puppy back. There was good suspense in waiting to see what Bob would do.
There is another powerful scene when a man gets out of prison and goes to the home of the man who protected him in jail. What transpired at this man's home was well written and vividly described.
There are a number of twists and surprises that make the reader unable to foresee the outcome of the story.
I enjoyed reading about Bob and his puppy but would have liked more background on Nadia, Uncle Marv and the former prisoner, Eric Deeds. With more of a history on these characters I would have better understanding of their motivation.
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About the reviewer
Mike Draper (mikedraper)
Michael A.Draper retired from working as a financial planner with Mass Mutual. Married to Diana for 48 years, one son and daughter-in-law and two lovely granddaughters. … more
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