A well-written, intriguing sports tale that explores the importance of home base.

EAGLES AND HAWKS AND ALSO PEOPLE AS WELL

A college baseball player struggles with his faith and sense of belonging when he transfers schools in this literary novel.

After his recovery from Tommy John surgery, college pitcher Vincenzo “Enzo” Prinziatta hopes to catch the attention of pro scouts. But when his 2015 junior year at State University of New York New Paltz passes without any offers, Enzo turns his attention to Cortland, a star in the SUNY Athletic Conference that’s known for its fan-friendly rituals. Enzo is reluctant to exit New Paltz; he’s a big fish in a small pond, and he’s leaving behind his family, his friend and catcher Lakewood “Semzy” Semend, and his girlfriend, Shannon Hestian, softball player and model. Not only that, Shannon is pregnant, and Enzo or his frenemy Barry Budski may be the father. Enzo also struggles with belief; he’s become rededicated to Roman Catholicism, but he’s disturbed to learn that his father lost his faith while dying painfully. What it comes down to, Enzo tells his adviser Father Pann, is that he wants his chance to play pro ball someday: “Beyond that, I think I want to find some place where it feels like home.” Enzo makes the switch from the New Paltz Hawks to the Cortland Eagles and heads to Cortland Summer Camp to prepare for his senior season. But his longing for order is upset by the Eagles’ strange hazing rituals, which leave him off balance—especially the contributions of Trudy Booth, the team’s Chinese-Taiwanese-American fellowship counselor, who spouts New Age–y slogans while stretching alluringly in skintight clothing. She’s also the coach’s wife. Enzo endures it all in the name of fitting in, but can he find a home at Cortland? Enzo is a thoughtful athlete reminiscent of Henry “Author” Wiggen in Mark Harris’ quartet of baseball novels, most notably Bang the Drum Slowly (1956). But Marcopolos (Womyn Do: The Healing of JOHNNY R3BEL, 2016, etc.) offers a postmodern twist. The mysterious keeps taking prominence in this novel: the hazing rituals, which are amusing, sexy, confusing, and disturbing all at once; the hard-to-figure attitudes of Enzo’s teammates; oddities like a replica of the Winchester Mystery House that somehow features a pagan mechanical bull ride; Trudy’s oracular pronouncements; and portentous dreams and symbols involving several dead birds and brick-tied balloons that a teammate pops. Each image speaks of death and aborted flight, a counterpoint to Enzo’s longing for the big leagues and a home that isn’t stifling. Also complex is Enzo’s character. He wants to do the right thing, is compassionately moved by the plight of a boy with a harsh father, but is a self-admitted “douchebag” to Shannon and considers standing up to a sexist teammate’s “joke” to be a fight not worth having. It’s a bit too convenient, however, when Enzo and Shannon’s baby is stillborn—another popped balloon and one that prevents Enzo from having to truly grapple with the consequences of his actions, marriage, or fatherhood.

A well-written, intriguing sports tale that explores the importance of home base.

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9862428-7-8

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Kykeon Media

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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