If you're looking for a real-life protagonist, this is your book. Phelan is a regular guy through and through, full of faults and foibles, stumbling every time a normal human would. For this, he's endearing. And frustrating. But throughout the book, you maintain a sense of hope that things will turn out alright for him. His story is worth the read.
I thought this book was interesting and somewhat well-written. The premise of the story is about bums and picks up where Kennedy's novel, "Billy Phelan's Greatest Game" leaves off. The lead character, Irish-American Francis Phelan is back in the city that he grew up in, where his past actions leave him filled with guilt; this is his attempt to come to terms with his decisions and appease the spirits who stalk his waking moments. There are a bevy of disparate and desperate characters, including Helen, his "woman," and Annie, his ex-wife. Despite the copious praise for this book, I felt that it had more pathos than necessary. I was glad it was a short read, and while it had some worthwhile inspired thoughts, I am not sure if I would have picked it to be a Pulitzer prize winner.
Oh this one, the third in the series, made reading the first two totally worth it! I liked Francis Phelan in the second book, and not much else besides him. Happily, he's the main character this third book is based around. Frannie's life is a mess, he's a drunk and a bum and he hides from his past... until he confronts and makes peace with it. All the back story that was so missing in the second book (Billy Phelan's Greatest Game) is filled in here. Super satisfying.
This is a harrowing tale of survival in the streets, and just off the streets, during the great depression. The heros are drunks, and fighters, and are difficult to love, but they are very compelling, and difficult to ignore, once they get under your skin. I hated the movie, which had none of the style and vigor of the book.