Say Nice Things About Detroit Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Say Nice Things About Detroit

A man returns to his childhood neighborhood near Detroit and rediscovers love in the midst of death. David Halpert, a lawyer in Denver, Colorado, returns home to Detroit when his father calls to tell him that his mother is sick - constantly forgetting things and acting strangely as if she were in the beginning stages of Alzheimer's or dementia. When David returns, he sees that his former girlfriend, Natalie has been murdered, along with her half-brother, an African-American man named Dirk. Dirk was a retired FBI agent who spent his younger years in the Bureau busting drug dealers and breaking up drug rings in the city. David calls to speak with Natalie's mother to express his regrets, but ends up talking to Natalie's younger sister, Carolyn. David invites her out for a drink to catch up, and after the bar the pair go back to the apartment David is renting. Carolyn, who is living in Southern California, is married with an almost-teenage son. She has cheated on her husband before, and does so again with David. David is immediately smitten with Carolyn, and can't wait to see her again. Divorced himself, David also had a son, but his son was killed years ago in a car crash when he was just sixteen years old. Carolyn returns to California, while David makes the decision to move back to Detroit permanently. He and his father admit his mother to a nursing home, where she begins a friendship - David's father calls it an "affair" - with another resident, a man who also suffers from dementia. In California, Carolyn realizes that she is pregnant, and when her husband asks her about a man named David who keeps calling, she finally decides to divorce her husband. David gets a job as an estate lawyer in Detroit, and ends up executing Dirk's will. After meeting Dirk's mother, David agrees to buy Dirk's old house. Another part of the will leaves $100,000 to a man named Marlon Booker, identified as a family friend. Marlon is the son of Dirk's best friend who long ago died of cancer; Dirk took responsibility for Marlon, even letting Marlon stay in the basement room of his home whenever he needed to. David's mother is put in the hospital when her friend, a former Detroit Lions linebacker, tackles her in the common room of the nursing home. She dies shortly thereafter, and Carolyn flies back in to attend the funeral with David. She can't quite bring herself to tell David that she is pregnant with his child. David meets Marlon for the first time, and helps Marlon set up a bank account where he can deposit the money left to him in Dirk's will. Marlon has fallen into a drug habit, and is essentially hiding from a dealer named Elvis. Over the years, Marlon has been skimming money from his deals and hiding the money under the floorboards in Dirk's house. Marlon asks David if he can move in to the house, noting that the house is in a predominately African-American neighborhood and that David, who is white, needs Marlon in the house to help protect it from some of the people in the neighborhood. After a few days of deliberation, David agrees. Carolyn herself returns to Detroit with her son, gets a job, and finally tells David that she is pregnant. David is happy, and wants to be involved as much as possible. David convinces Marlon to get a steady job, and Marlon settles on a bartending job outside of the city, a neighborhood where none of his friends and enemies in the drug trade are likely to find him. Unfortunately for Marlon, a girl he knew in high school shows up at the bar with her (much older) fiance, and Marlon knows that she will talk about him as soon as she gets the chance, and Elvis will surely hear about it. Marlon gathers up the money he saved under Dirk's floorboards and, along with the money from his bartending job and the money Dirk left him, leaves Detroit. A few nights later, David is in bed when he hears a noise from downstairs. Carolyn spent the night with him, but when he calls down to her she tells him not to come down. Then, another voice, a man's voice, tells him to get downstairs before anything happens to Carolyn. As another stranger, a large African-American man, makes his way upstairs, David notices the tire iron Marlon used to pry up the floorboards. Lashing out, he knocks the man down the stairs, only to go down himself to see two men, both black, standing in the living room. One of the men has a gun trained on Carolyn, who is sitting in a chair. David recognizes one of the men as Marlon's friend E-Call, but doesn't know the other one. The stranger tells David that he wants Marlon, but David insists he doesn't know where Marlon is. David makes a jump for the man's gun, and when a gunshot rings out, David is sure he has been shot. However, it was E-Call who shot Elvis, both to protect Marlon and Carolyn. After the traumatic events, Carolyn goes into labor, naming her new son Karl. Carolyn, David, Carolyn's son Kevin, and Karl all happily live together in Detroit, a city most people move away from.
Click here to see the rest of this review

Best part of story, including ending: The story as a whole is fantastic, and Lasser conveys his love for Detroit, a city that has been the butt of many jokes for decades. David and Carolyn both move back to a place they thought they had left behind, and they both find out that Detroit isn't such a bad place to raise a family.

Best scene in story: I enjoyed the scene where David and his father went to the local Holiday Inn for dinner after David's mother was admitted to the nursing home. It showed that David's father was not just alone, but almost lost without his wife, who made family dinners at Thanksgiving for years.

Opinion about the main character: Despite the traumatic events of his past - the death of his son, his divorce - David quickly embraces love again with Carolyn, and just as quickly decides that he wants to be involved with their baby.

The review of this Book prepared by Adam Koeth a Level 3 Eurasian Jay scholar

Chapter Analysis of Say Nice Things About Detroit

Click on a plot link to find similar books!

Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   depressed Time/era of story    -   2000+ (Present Day) Ethnic/Regional/Religion    -   American dirty gritty city Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Ethnic/regional/gender life    -   Yes

Main Character

Gender    -   Male Profession/status:    -   a lawyer creature Age:    -   40's-50's Ethnicity/Nationality    -   White (American)


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   5 () United States    -   Yes The US:    -   Midwest City?    -   Yes City:    -   dangerous

Writing Style

Sex in book?    -   Yes What kind of sex:    -   vague references only Amount of dialog    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

Books with storylines, themes & endings like Say Nice Things About Detroit

Scott Lasser Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
2 Ways to Search!

Our Chief Librarian