A sturdy sports novel with much greater appeal.

THE BALL PLAYER

A coming-of-age novel about a young man’s ambition to play Major League Baseball and the lifelong friendship that guided him along the way.

Baseball: our national pastime; a game of tradition and history that recalls a simpler era. It’s also a billion-dollar industry that showcases celebrity talent. Snellgrove, in his debut, looks deep into the psychology of the game’s players as they fight for a big-league position. Ultimately, it’s a novel about the myth of boyhood dreams, the limitations of ability and the realization that wanting it all can be too much. The unnamed protagonist begins his story by recollecting his earliest competitive desires, which were fulfilled by the challenges he and his best friend, Danny, waged for nearly any activity—at times risking their lives. The two boys grow up, however, and learn that the childish games of their past have now perfectly primed them for higher-level sports. While Danny excels at both football and baseball, he grows despondent at being only 5 feet 7 inches; he knows scouts will never notice him. But the narrator becomes a standout ball player, and his skill is matched by his stature; he’s drafted into the minor leagues right out of high school. From this point on, the two men grow distant as their competitiveness leads them into different lives: Danny becomes a local football coach, and the narrator continues to persevere through grinding but successful minor league seasons. The narrator feels like Danny is just as capable as he is of playing at this level, but he also recognizes his own talent and fortune, which doesn’t make success any easier. Snellgrove deftly illustrates the pressures on ball players vying for select spots, even on a minor league team. In one particularly heartrending scene, the narrator succumbs to his cutthroat competitive nature by taking testosterone supplements to give him an edge. Solid character-building makes such real-life decisions that much more believable and tragic.

A sturdy sports novel with much greater appeal.

Pub Date: April 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0979788505

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Loaded Press

Review Posted Online: July 9, 2012

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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