Talented newcomer Grimes writes elegantly about inelegant lives in this novella-length debut. Queens, New York, 1961, and (as the narrator remembers it) the McManus family is coming apart at the seams while he, a grossly obese 14-year-old, seeks solace in food and in baseball--which, with its roles and standards, imposes order on anticipation, longing, and motion. His mother still dreams of upward mobility. His father (a low-level clerk and occasional binge alcoholic) ""hadn't planned on making anything of himself"" but also hadn't understood ""that he could be made to feel worthless if he didn't""; his latest carousing has led to a car accident and arrest. Six-year-old brother Rudy is intentionally mute. The brothers' failed businessman grandfather is kept alive by surgically installed electronic hardware; he babbles when his wife plugs him into an AC outlet to recharge his power pack: ""more like having a radio than a husband."" In spite of all this grotesquerie, Grimes succeeds in making his characters seem ordinary and quite real. As the narrator waits to see whether Roger Maris will break Babe Ruth's home-run record, as he tries to bring small pleasures to his grandfather, break through to his disturbed brother, and reach the point where he can feel sadness for his parents instead of anger and blame, his voice imposes a precise, reflective coolness on even the most darkly humorous scenes and remains convincing throughout, even with the occasional factual slip. Small, polished, and moving.