A young single father reunites with a lost love and reckons with feeling trapped—as he unwittingly becomes the centerpiece of a not-very-compelling controversy over a high-school football game.
Eric lives in his hometown of Pinely, West Virginia, where he gets arrested with some frequency for getting into bar fights, works at a funeral home, and bartends at the American Legion. In light of his wayward ways and lack of ambition, it’s a shock to learn that he’s forgone a scholarship to Brown to stay home and be a father to Tess, now five, the product of a one-night stand with Gina, who still harbors hopes for a life with Eric. The child’s birth destroyed Eric’s dream of getting away from Pinely, as well as his relationship with Jill, the would-be love of his life. When Jill’s father dies, bringing her back to town from law school, seeing her again ignites Eric’s old feelings for her and awakens an ambivalence about the choices he’s made, however much he loves his daughter. Meanwhile, his old friend Deke has hatched a scheme to manipulate the betting pool for the local high school’s big game, attempting to convince the town that Eric (who accurately predicted the team’s victory years before) has made another prediction against the odds—which favor the home team again. Though Headley skillfully interweaves scenes from Eric’s childhood with those from the present, there’s still too little beneath the surface. Time is wasted on the less-than-riveting betting storyline, not enough spent on developing Eric’s character. Despite his examination of his life choices, his situation remains unchanged, and there’s little hope for a satisfying future. The story might be of interest to young men who’ve made sacrifices for fatherhood, but there’s little to be learned from Eric’s plight.
Sometimes amusing, but a first novel that in the end feels as aimless as its confused protagonist.