In this comic novella, two elderly Jewish men are invited to join a Mongolian bowling team.
Harold Kushner, 72, lives in the Land O Lakes Mobile Home Park in Florida with Murray Schwartz, his roommate and friend of 30 years. Age has shrunk him some, but Harold still feels young, even if he’s not as strong and fit as he used to be when he was a public-works employee. Although he’s fairly content in retirement, he entertains some what-if dreams involving beautiful women in their 40s. Murray, an amateur inventor, still works at his own repair-shop business, and he can fix anything. The two seniors bowl at least twice a week, and Harold, in the first-person narration, comments that “we may be the only two good Jewish bowlers…ever.” They meet Tomorbaatar and Kulan, two young Mongolian-Americans practicing for the first-ever Mongolian Bowling League tournament. Harold and Murray are invited to play with them after they lose two teammates, but when Harold unexpectedly bowls a perfect game, he upsets a fix by the bowling-alley owners, Sal and Frankie Amondola. As Harold continues to bowl miraculously well, he finds redemption for events in his past, brings attention to Mongolia and its people, and finds a way to make everyone happy. Debut author Borowsky uses humor well in this appealing success story, as when Harold notes that “the last time this many Mongols got together to throw heavy round objects, feast on meat while wearing special footwear, they had managed to conquer the world” under Genghis Khan. The author also effectively contrasts his alter kockers with the young Mongolian-Americans, with whom Harold finds unexpected fellowship through nomadism: “we Jews were scattered throughout the world because we weren’t wanted anywhere else. Just like the Mongolians, we had to pick up on a moment’s notice and get the hell out of there in order to survive.” This strain of humanism underlies and strengthens the story, which otherwise becomes rather broad at times, especially after comical mobsters Sal and Frankie enter the scene. Also, a stronger copy edit would have addressed repeated, distracting instances of incorrect punctuation.
An amusing, sweet tale of a high-stakes game.