David Halpert has taken a leave from his law firm in Denver to help his aging parents, who still live in suburban Detroit. He learns that his high school girlfriend Natalie and her older half-brother Dirk have recently been murdered, and he calls on her family to pay his respects. He becomes involved with their younger sister Caroline, who is visiting from Los Angeles.
Much to his own surprise, David decides to settle down in Detroit--since his son was killed in a car accident and he and his wife divorced, there is little to hold him in Denver. He gets a job at a Detroit firm, buys Dirk's home in a black neighborhood (David is white), and offers shelter to a young hoodlum whom Dirk tried to help before his death. When Caroline discovers that she is pregnant and a DNA test proves her husband is not the father, she too decides to return home to Detroit with her son.
Lots happens in Say Nice Things about Detroit, but the plot isn't what matters. Rather, it's the exploration of what can go right and wrong in individuals' lives in a racially divided and economically depressed city like Detroit and the search for home, to fill the holes that the trials of life have left in one's heart. I'm always surprised when a male author writes an essentially romantic book, but Say Nice Things about Detroit is also that--indeed the happy ending is a bit too pat, but the issues explored give the book depth as well.
He thought that if your neighbors wanted you around, then maybe you were home.