Revolver by Duane Swierczynski is a classic Cain and Abel story, a story about a dysfunctional family. It could be Greek or Nordic, too. All families are dysfunctional. On one side of the family table, in the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia, sit cops while on the other half sit gangsters. The story revolves around three generations. In this racially loaded tale, the third generation has to solve the crimes of the previous two generations, the sins of the father, so to speak. The crimes are murder and cover-up as the bad seeds climb the ladder of power, first as gangsters then as politicians. It is always interesting how the crooks seek legitimacy through politics and the slow ascension to the highest offices. The Kennedys come to mind as Joe has criminal ties in his early years and then his sons attain the highest political offices and are ironically killed when they attain it or almost attain it. Some may call this kind of justice, karma.
All families have their secrets and closets of skeletons. There just isn’t any getting away from family, no matter how hard one tries or how far one tries to run. Changing names doesn’t work, nor changing cities. Family will always suck you back in. In this tale we watch as family members face their past, their present to form their future and inevitably repeat and continue the sins of the father. It requires that we face our ghosts, bury them, expose them, and move on. There is no hiding our familial ties no matter how hard we try. This tale reminded me a great deal of my own family and just how dysfunctional it is and how much I learned about my own family from other family members after my father died. I was amazed at the complexity of our dysfunctional family history.
As I read this tale, I enjoyed from the reader’s POV, the deconstruction of the entire complexity of family as an objective viewer, while at the same time appreciating my own personal story and family history. I have slowly come to realize over time that we all have stories of dysfunction in our families, which was why I so enjoyed this tale and found it hard to put down. What I enjoyed the most about this tale is that it was merely a look at three generations knowing that the dysfunction started before these generations and will continue for them, me, and all of us into our future generations. The symbology of Cain and Abel, as well as those other similar stories from other cultural religious mythologies, are an important metaphor for all of us about our own dysfunctional families. All cultures share in this story of dysfunction, power struggle, and failed attempt to right wrongs as the dysfunction continues, our great flaw and hubris.