WATER BOY by Gary Reiswig


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 The promise of a winning high-school football team corrupts the values of a 1950's Oklahoma town--in a first novel by Reiswig. Narrator Sonny Schultz has a deeply religious Baptist mother who will eventually go crazy, and a father who owns the newspaper in his hometown of Cimarron. Sonny is a mama's boy who wants to be a preacher after an early vision of Jesus, so it's not surprising that he lacks the killer instinct to be a player for his high- school Dustdevils. What puts him in the catbird seat is not the lowly position of team manager, or water boy, but his close friendship with star quarterback Danny Boone, who's fast replacing the older but less motivated ``Killer'' Miller in the town's favor. The merchants press freebies on Danny; the sheriff winks at his theft of some watermelons; older women yearn to be serviced by this hot new stud, including Killer's girl Dovie and the virginal Anne Tendal, whose beauty stopped Sonny in his tracks while he was answering God's call at a crusade for Christ, led by evangelist and communist fighter Joe Don Jones. When Danny loses his fighting spirit after a brush with death, the evangelist ``saves'' him for Christ (and the upcoming season) while forcing Anne, the fleshly distraction, to leave town. As the novel moves slowly toward the championship game and the inevitable bloodletting between Danny and the rival Killer, the guilt-ridden Sonny becomes infected by the win-at-all-costs spirit.... What might have been a powerful indictment of civic and religious hypocrisy is vitiated by Reiswig's ambivalence: part of him wants to see that winning play as youthful derring-do. Add a lack of focus and a weakness for melodrama, and you have a ho-hum debut.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-671-79506-6
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1993