Low-life America has its day in this first novel by an eight- time Pushcart nominee: a tale of a high-school baseball star, the cheerleader who married him, and their long, painful, post-teenaged decline, first explored in novella form in Spencer's collection, Wedlock (1990). No one in the history of little-populated Adams County, Ohio, had ever played baseball as spectacularly Lon Peterson. Hence it came as no surprise that by graduation Lon had hooked not only a third-base position with a Raleigh, North Carolina, minor-league team but also an engagement to Pamela, the school's prettiest cheerleader. Once married and outside the confines of his hometown, though, Lon inexplicably lost all confidence and, with it, his athletic gift; a single season of incompetent playing later, he found himself unemployed and summarily divorced. Six years passed, during which Pamela, who had fled home to Mom, took a job at McDonald's and married the skinny, pale boy who lived across the street, while Lon passed the time sleeping, watching TV, and drinking at topless bars. When Lon's father dies, the 23-year-old former athlete returns to Adams County to try selling real estate. He and Pamela spend the next six years sidestepping each other at the local parades, fast-food restaurants, and country-western bars, while their lives drag on unattended—bringing the death of a husband and the birth of a child to Pamela and a series of pointless love affairs to Lon. Only then does it occur to a tired, prematurely frumpish Pamela that she might one day stop by Lon's real-estate office to say hi, while Lon suddenly finds himself able to let go of an inappropriate lover long enough to search the sky for the moon. In Spencer's bleak, blue-collar world, this passes for a happy ending. Raymond Carver without the soul.
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