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by Howard Frank Mosher

Pub Date: Aug. 18th, 2004
ISBN: 0-618-19722-2
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

A baseball story as sweet and heart-gladdening as the juice from a ripe peach, by highly regarded Vermont novelist and memoirist Mosher (The True Account, 2003, etc.).

Ethan Allen, the contemporary version, hails from northern Vermont, just like his namesake. His hometown is Kingdom Common, complete with IGA and five-and-dime, hill farmers on the skids and dark hollows, stoop-sitting pensioners, nail-tough retired schoolteachers still happy to dish unsolicited advice, a company of improbable graybeards, and a statue of the late great Revolutionary War colonel who communes with our Ethan, tendering suggestions here, a fresh perspective there. So a bit of magic is afoot, but there’s also Ethan’s hard-knocks childhood: a mother and grandmother long on their own patented brand of love though short on wherewithal; and the neighbors, who possess even more malice, and of the physical sort, than his grandmother. Ethan’s knack with a baseball lifts him above dread and circumstance, though not without encouragement and support from his nearest, including that brought by the return of his understandably absent father, Teddy. Mosher’s talent for giving believable breath to unconventional lives (at one point, Ethan’s mother does a topless river dance on the despised neighbor’s bulldozer) is on full display, with the most outlandish or suspect behavior given a natural rhythm that’s easy to accept, where the offensive and the insightful come wrapped in the same parcel. There are words to the wise—in Mosher’s hands they feel burnished, not timeworn—about patience, concentration, and smartness. And the statue says: “Mark my words. With talent comes a high price. Self-discipline. Setbacks. Sacrifice. Risk of failing. If you aren’t willing to pay that price, you don’t have a snowball’s chance.”

The outcome is as ambrosial as the story itself. Now if only we knew what happens with Ethan and Louisianne.