In Herder’s (The Second Coming of Jesse James, 2014) fine new novel, tension flares on the Freiburg High School baseball team when a girl becomes the starting pitcher.
This charming, fun novel features a cast of eccentric Missourians and centers on two pitchers—hapless George Seibenmann and feisty Ruth Hannon. George’s family is a bunch of overweight ne’er-do-wells, but George is bright and ambitious, applying to Caltech to study physics and wanting to, as Theodore Roosevelt said, “dare mighty things.” Ruth chops off her “famous” long hair after it causes problems on the field at her first practice, but the enigmatic young woman proves that she’s a force to be reckoned with when she nearly strikes out the team’s best hitter. However, George must reckon with another force: chaos, which reigns throughout the story, as small gestures have huge effects, and thoughtless deeds have unintended consequences. The Seibenmann family members’ lives have always been dictated by forces beyond their control—bad economies, Parkinson’s disease, war. George’s life swirls with the chaos of college admissions, baseball season—and his love for Ruth. His struggle drives this novel forward, but Ruth never quite comes into clear focus, even as some of the minor characters do. Her presence looms large, but her personality remains vague; as a result, readers may have difficulty relating to George’s attraction to her, aside from the fact that she’s a good-looking, talented female and he’s a red-blooded American male. Otherwise, this is a complex, self-aware book; for example, at church, George thinks, “This was a high school baseball game between two rinky-dink towns. No one else cared, not even in the next county. Certainly, Almighty God had issues of more pressing concern.” But soon, even he gets swept up in the fervor, singing the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and chanting “All the way to State!” It’s a beautifully scaled moment, typical of the novel, which, like its protagonist, is smart and full of feeling.
A funny, poignant novel that shows how baseball and love exist in a realm beyond reason.
A highly organized, informative discussion of the immigration system in the United States.
In this politically charged environment, Afrasiabi manages to broach the volatile issue of immigration in a well-rounded, surprisingly effective framework that combines case studies, historical research, statistical analysis and personal anecdotes to detail the current issues and propose solutions. Invocations of Kafka, “The Twilight Zone” and “Alice in Wonderland” prove warranted as illustrations of the often surreal circumstances that confront immigrants facing deportation. Immigrants usually lack access to quality legal representation, while their situation can be made doubly difficult due to language barriers and significant cultural differences. Afrasiabi incorporates his work with colleagues and students at the Chapman University School of Law to deftly weave together the facts of several compelling cases and their underlying legal issues, with a genuine sense of suspense as readers wonder if justice will be truly be served. Occasionally, though, the narrative becomes overwrought—two federal laws passed in 1996 are “dark storm clouds depositing their sleet”—although, considering the life-changing effects of court decisions, it’s difficult to overstate the ramifications: extralegal rendition of individuals with pending cases and the de facto deportation of native-born children whose parents are deported. Afrasiabi also addresses the legacy of various anti-alien laws in California, as well as marriage equality for same-sex couples when one partner is a noncitizen. As the subtitle asserts, Afrasiabi employs his additional experience in the field of property law to contrast the stark differences between immigration judges and constitutional judges, like their qualifications, vetting processes and even the oaths they take. His arguments culminate in seven concrete reforms proposed in the conclusion. In order to make the immigration system more just and effective, Afrasiabi claims the solutions are closer than we may think; we can implement procedures and safeguards already in place within the constitutional courts.
A persuasive, valuable addition to the ongoing immigration reform debate.
Walkley pits CIA agents against a maniacal Saudi prince intent on starting World War III in this debut thriller.
Delta Force operative Lee McCloud, aka Mac, finds himself in Mexico, trying to rescue two teenage girls kidnapped by a drug cartel. But things go from bad to worse when the villains don’t play by the rules. Framed for two murders he didn’t commit, Mac has two options: go to prison or go to work for a CIA black-op group run by the devious Wisebaum, who hacks into terrorists’ bank accounts and confiscates millions of dollars. However, there’s more going on than meets the eye; Saudi Prince Khalid is in possession of nuclear canisters, with which he hopes to alter world history. Khalid also dabbles in trafficking young women, and harvesting and selling human organs. When Wisebaum’s black-op team targets Khalid’s father, the action becomes even more intense. With so many interweaving subplots—kidnapped girls, Israeli undercover agents, nuclear weapons and a secret underwater hideout—it could be easy to lose track of what’s going on. But the author’s deft handling of the material ensures that doesn’t occur; subplots are introduced at the appropriate junctures and, by story’s end, all are accounted for and neatly concluded. Mac is portrayed as a rough and ready action-hero, yet his vulnerabilities will evoke empathy in readers. He finds a love interest in Tally, a hacker whose personality is just quirky enough to complement his own. All Walkley’s primary characters are fleshed out and realistic, with the exception of Wisebaum—a malicious, double-dealing, back-stabber of the worst ilk; the reader is left wondering about Wisebaum’s motivations behind such blatant treachery.
Despite this, Walkley’s beefy prose and rousing action sequences deliver a thriller to satisfy any adrenaline addict.