Thursday Reviews: Onion Street by Reed Farrel Coleman

Onion Street

Reed Farrel Coleman

At what may be the end of Moe Prager’s life, he recounts for his daughter an incident from the beginning of his adult life. Onion Street is framed by Moe and daughter Sarah attending the funeral of Bobby Friedman, one of Moe’s oldest friends. Moe is surprised Bobby had died, since he’s just finished killing a tumor in his gut with several rounds of chemo. But Moe is amused when he leaves the cemetery. Sarah wants to know why. So Moe tells her, and that is the entree into the very moment Moe Prager became a man.

It’s 1967, and Moses Prager is an aimless Brooklyn College kid happy to bang his girlfriend, drift from class to class, and occasionally smoke the odd joint. Hey, it’s the sixties, and Moe’s sticking it to the man the way boys of my generation raised to an art form: By slacking.

But Mindy is upset about something and warns Moe to stay away from Bobby, his best friend, for a couple of days. This after Moe bails Bobby out. Bobby has been jailed during a radical demonstration, one over the bombing death of his girlfriend some months earlier. Moe can hardly stay away. He spots him at the Burgundy House, what passes for a fraternity at Brooklyn College, and stops him from being killed. When Moe decides he needs to know why, he shadows Bobby and discovers a body. While that happens, Mindy is rushed to the hospital in a coma. Soon, Moe finds himself in over his head, entangled with the mob, communist radicals, and possibly drug smugglers. He also seems to have a talent for finding things out that law enforcement struggles with. More than one person, including a detective, points this out to him.

In the end, Moe realizes he never knew the people around him (besides his parents, brother Aaron, and little sister Miriam). He also realizes where his purpose lies – on the NYPD.

In all the other Pragers, Moe is a responsible businessman who misses his police days. He has been married twice, once widowed and once divorced, and is still reeling from the events of his debut (Walk a Perfect Square) and of the murder that came back to haunt him later (The James Deans). This is a bit different because we see a child named Moe Prager who has to grow up very fast as people around him start dying, and in some cases, a few try to kill him.