In 1950s America, the answer to any problem lies at the bottom of a malted from the Atomic Shake, until a wild adventure tests the unbreakable friendship between four teenagers in Province’s debut novel.
Best friends Peter “Chumbucket” Miller and Mike DeSorcier come of age in the summer of 1956. The two are gunning for the World Series championship in the Bantam League of their small Pennsylvania hometown, but as they continue their quest for the title, a string of mysterious happenings begins to take over the town and the league. They rescue a drowning woman in the Susquehanna, only to discover she has secrets of her own—starting with a coded set of documents and a mysterious ruby necklace. Soon, the boys notice dark cars filled with dark-suited men following them everywhere they go; the leader chain-smokes through a hole in his neck. Throw in two mysteriously alluring girls—Karen Croft and Jo Munro—and the boys realize that this summer is likely to be one they won’t forget. While Province aptly captures the spirit of what has become a rather nostalgic time in America’s history, the story is at times hard to follow. Initially, readers may have a difficult time orienting themselves in the time period without scene-setting, but once Province’s vision is clear, the novel stays rolling. Magical elements are thrust upon the reader with little or no explanation, which at times can be problematic. From a town hall fire blamed on an imposter-Santa and his elf to an otherworldly baseball opponent and a small stone seal that seems to hold all the answers, there’s no shortage of imagination, even if Province’s prose is clunky at times. The battle between the teenagers and the Noqumiut—those mysterious dark-suited men who are slowly taking over the town—keeps the reader engaged and ready for more.
Older readers could poke holes in the plot, but the younger set is sure to enjoy this fantastical tale of friendship, baseball and what it means to grow up.