In Rosa’s (Birdie, 2012, etc.) novel, Sam Parma, an observant, self-conscious teenager, learns about life, love, human nature and himself as he caddies for an ex-president at a local golf tournament.
This thoroughly enjoyable, deceptively simple story, ostensibly penned by Sam with the help of his language arts teacher, opens with him awaiting a ride home from the aforementioned match, mooning over what he calls “The Big Goof.”Sam narrates the tale in a kind of teenage-noir style: “Futile—that‘s the word I was looking for....I could’ve used others like useless, pointless, or wasted. Any of those would’ve done just fine. But I decided on futile.” During the round, he engagingly compares the actions of different people in his party; the unnamed ex-president has a friendly but standoffish manner, which contrasts starkly to baseball star Ernie Banks’, who exudes an affable generosity, signing autographs for all who ask. Sam also notes how other caddies’ actions differ from his own. Major, a friendly veteran caddy who coaches Sam, takes notes on the course and checks wind direction by tossing grass in the air; Chip Swanson, a popular, self-important up-and-comer in the golf world, instructs his player in what sounds to Sam like a foreign language: “This one’s a real slider…Play it about three balls to the high side. It falls off past the hole, so careful with the pace. Let it die over the lip.” In the crowd, a girl named Theresa Bellissima seems to be flirting with him, and later provides Sam with a hard-knocks lesson in love. Throughout, Sam entertainingly daydreams, establishing details about his relationships with his family and the world at large. As the story unfolds in flashback,Rosa deftly builds suspense over what the mistake might have been, while also building a relatable character through solid storytelling.
An elegant tale, perfect for golfers and nongolfers alike.