BALLS by Nanci Kincaid

BALLS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Kincaid's relaxed and folksy second novel (after Crossing Blood, 1992, and a story collection Pretending the Bed is a Raft, 1997) chronicles in their own words the variously impoverished lives of women who love men who love football. In brief chapters narrated by a dozen or more such women, Kincaid explores the gradually raised consciousness of Dixie Carraway, a virginal Alabama innocent who marries football star Mac Gibbs, lives through his embattled coaching tenure at fictional Birmingham University (""Ham U.""), and, to her own surprise, matures into an independent woman who can live without her handsome hero or her inherited ladylike behavior. Dixie's ""testimony"" is primary, though there are significant contributions from her mother Rose, placid mother-in-law Millie, feisty girlfriend Frances, and her family's black hired woman Lilly Brown (whose son Jett earns the pro career denied the modestly gifted Mac). Other narrators--mothers, wives, children, or sweethearts of marketable athletes or befuddled coaching personnel--add their own perspectives to the (alas, trite) story of Mac's stand against racism (he starts a black quarterback, arousing the local KKK), his submission to the virtually universal practice of recruiting violations, and the loss of his prestigious career and treasured marriage. Kincaid handles this rather pulpy material more-or-less evenhandedly. Mac is anything but an insensitive macho male (in fact, he's too good to be true); and Dixie's nervous soul-searching gets on your nerves (especially when her efforts to understand Mac's preoccupation lead her to such insights as ""Football is testosterone-driven art. Football makes me rethink beauty."" Fortunately, Kincaid's forte--gritty, down-to-earth dialogue--dominates the novel, saving it from its worst miscalculations. She's equally convincing with bored housewives and dirty-minded good ole boys. Nothing new here, then, but another engaging demonstration of Kincaid's high-spirited affection for her agreeable characters.

Pub Date: Oct. 2nd, 1998
Page count: 408pp
Publisher: Algonquin