Francis Albert Forsythe, teenager and aspiring professional baseball player, experiences a series of near-death events and discovers that God may have different plans for his future in Perkins’ debut novel.
Former reporter and freelance writer Perkins tells of an adolescent boy coming of age somewhere near the Pacific Northwest in 1964. Francis, introspective and the oldest of eight, loves to read and play baseball. His life’s ambition is to become a center fielder for the New York Yankees, although he confesses to considering other career paths, including the priesthood. His ambitions and freshman year in high school are abruptly interrupted by rheumatic fever resulting in a lengthy hospital stay and recovery under the watchful eye of his protective Italian mother. While ill and near death, Francis dreams vividly of an encounter with Jesus, who tells Francis the decision to live or die as well as his own destiny, whether baseball or priesthood, is in his own hands. Post-illness, it is during a visit to his grandparents in Oregon, which includes several more close calls with death, that Francis finds his way to adulthood and the path to his future. Perkins deftly captures the inner workings of the adolescent male with all the accompanying angst of budding sexuality, desire for independence and poignant self-discovery. Adolescent readers will easily identify with Francis’ chafing against his mother’s restrictions and his uneasy relationships with his stepfather and siblings. Perkins’ descriptions of Francis’ home and the places he visits are vibrant and filled with small details that smoothly draw the reader into Francis’ world. Perkins is less adept at keeping track of the large cast of supporting characters and occasionally stumbles. Aunt Ramona, described on page 63, becomes Aunt Lenora on page 68. Francis’ sister, Loretta, is sometimes referred to as Rena, with no explanation if this is a nickname or the wrong name. These inconsistencies can be distracting against an otherwise attentively detailed backdrop.
An enjoyably insightful story that gives readers a glimpse into the heart and mind of a young man on his way to making life-changing decisions.