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Charleston, South Carolina, 1939: Omar Kohn, 15, is both the official scorer for the Neighborhood League and coach for one of its teams. In addition to baseball, however, he's also in love with the transcendent qualities of certain pieces of classical music, with trains, the Civil War, reading. His father, an early-retired invalid, only tip-toes through life; and Omar's mother, after years of nursing her husband, is about at the end of her emotional tether. So there's a stillness surrounding Omar, leaving him more or less on his own to make judgments of ethics and identity. (A visit to his mother's family in Richmond, however, is comparatively enlightening: there Omar finds such vibrant, specific Jews, so much more alive than the cautious folk back in Charleston.) He haunts the docks, the railroad tracks, the swamps (Rubin is especially fine in conveying the feel of mid-century Charleston, its shipping-town-ness); he has his timidities with sex and friendship, his rages of prejudice. But nothing is as haunting here--though, unfortunately, much underplayed--as Omar's relationship with his parents. Years of frightened misfortune have bonded his mother and father into a two-person unit which neither Omar nor his sister can even dent. And this exile of a child is a lovely, sad theme that Rubin is sensitive enough to establish firmly . . . but not quite energetic enough as a novelist to lean upon, to press until it delivers more than simply a poignant situation. Still, this is a graceful, if rather slow, book: a nice, quiet portrait of a boy who's made resourceful not by adventure--like Huck Finn--but by the emptinesses in his life.

Pub Date: Nov. 6th, 1981
Publisher: Louisiana State Univ. Press