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Book Review: A Tale For The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (Viking Adult; 432 pages; $28.95).

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            The relationship between a writer and a reader is sacrosant.  Nowhere is that truer than in Ruth Ozeki’s wildly imaginative, ambitious, and brilliant novel A Tale for the Time Being.  Ozeki redefines that sacred link between novelist and bibliophile and simultaneously blurs the lines between fiction and reality, exhibiting an unbridled and whimsical style so convincing and creative that the reader feels part of the story.   Ozeki intertwines multiple voices in her parallel narrative:  a 104-year-old Zen Buddhist nun, a Japanese kamikaze pilot, a troubled Japanese teenage girl, and a writer named Ruth.

She opens with the unforgettable tale of Nao, a teen living in Tokyo’s Akiba Electricity Town.  “My name is Nao, and I am a time being,” she writes.  “A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be.”  “Nao” is eerily similar to “now,” and her name is a deliberate play on words that lends even more power and urgency to this story.

Depressed and anxious from being bullied by her classmates, Nao is an outcast with one friend half a world away.  She is a desperately unhappy young woman who seriously contemplates suicide.  “The truth is that very soon I’m going to graduate from time…I just turned sixteen and I’ve accomplished nothing at all…Do I sound pathetic? I don’t mean to.  I just want to be accurate.  Maybe instead of graduate, I should say I’m going to drop out of time.”  First, though, she vows to write down her great-grandmother’s life story in a diary.  Not only does Nao provide insight into the life of her great-grandmother, a Zen Buddhist nun, but she also illuminates her own existence.

As Nao writes in her diary, she wonders about the person who will one day read her words.  “You wonder about me.  I wonder about you.  Who are you and what are you doing?…Do you have a cat and is she sitting on your lap?  Does her forehead smell like cedar trees and fresh sweet air?”  Although she is just a teen, Nao seems very aware of the passage of time and meditates on the brevity of her existence on earth: “Actually, it doesn’t matter very much, because by the time you read this, everything will be different, and you will be nowhere in particular, flipping idly through the pages of this book, which happens to be the diary of my last days on earth, wondering if you should keep on reading.”

The character of Nao allows Ozeki to introduce Japanese manga and anime culture into her story, making it more lively and accurate.  For Nao, the characters in manga are her friends who help her discover her very own superpower.  Nao needs to find an inner strength, and time with her great-grandmother also helps the girl become confident and strong.

It would have been fairly easy for Ozeki to write a book based solely on Nao’s narrative, yet Ozeki changes her tone and style to present a kind of detective story.  No one is better at detective work than a novelist accustomed to research.  So Ozeki brings in an author named Ruth.

Curiously, Ozeki puts herself in her own fictional work.  Like Ozeki, Ruth lives on a remote island off British Columbia.  Ruth is also a novelist who suffers from writer’s block (Ozeki’s last novel, All Over Creation, was published in 2003, so perhaps this is also true).  Like Ozeki, Ruth is married to a man named Oliver and her mother has recently passed away.  Ozeki is part Japanese and so is Ruth.

I do not recall ever having read a story in which the author becomes such a central figure in his or her own story.  It is a weighty technique, leading the reader to wonder how autobiographical the work is or if it is simply fiction with a revealing twist. Whatever the case may be, the line between fiction and reality is not clear-cut in this novel, which makes it all the more enthralling and appealing.

While walking along the beach one day, Ruth finds a plastic bag containing a Hello Kitty lunchbox.  Inside the lunchbox are a number of items: a series of Japanese letters, a red book containing a famous Marcel Proust piece, and a watch.  However, the pages written by the French novelist, critic, and essayist have been removed and the book now contains the diary of a Japanese teenager named Nao.  The teen’s diary captivates and even obsesses Ruth; she begins a dogged pursuit to find out what happened to Nao.

The deeper Ruth gets into her research and into her quest to locate Nao, the more Ruth is certain that, through the humble act of reading Nao’s diary, she can save the troubled teen.  Ozeki goes a step further, though.  She makes the reader feel like he or she can effect this tale  by reading the story.  The reader really becomes Ruth, transfixed and possessed by Nao’s account.  The fate of the Japanese teen matters deeply not only to Ruth but also to us.

Ozeki expresses our universal desire to connect with others through words and stories.  Ozeki’s characters speak to us across time and across continents and beckon us to follow them to unknown worlds.  Equal parts sobering and inspiring, A Tale for the Time Being is wholly inventive from the first page to the last.  Not since Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry has a novel so deeply moved me.  Profoundly touching and amazingly good, A Tale for the Time Being is destined to become a modern classic.

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Book Review: Misfit by Adam Braver

Misfit by Adam Braver (Tin House Books; 304 pages; $15.95).

 

            Marilyn Monroe was not born; she was the creation of both Norma Jean Baker and Hollywood.  Marilyn became one of the most iconic figures of all time yet possessed a fragile, insecure psyche.  Adam Braver’s novel Misfit explores key moments of Marilyn’s past and how they shaped her and, ultimately, how they destroyed her.  Braver’s story is a character study of the twentieth century’s most prolific sex symbol who saw herself as a misfit.  Braver shows that Marilyn should have won Best Actress for starring in the role of a lifetime—playing Marilyn Monroe.

 

Misfit, Braver says, “should not be read as a biography, or as a record of actual events.”  Instead, it is a work of fiction, “meant to examine a struggle for identity in a very public world, and the rewards and pitfalls of conforming to meet others’ expectations.”

Braver concentrates on the last weekend of Marilyn’s life: the two days she spent at Frank Sinatra’s resort on the border between California and Nevada, the Cal Neva Lodge.  In a series of flashbacks, Braver illustrates the moments that defined her.  His novel combines fact with fiction to help us better understand both the woman and the myth.

 

Even as a young girl, Braver maintains, Norma Jean felt like a misfit.  After her mentally unstable mother, Gladys, was institutionalized, Norma Jean was passed around from relative to relative and from orphanage to orphanage.  Sexual abuse occurred at a young age.  Norma Jean clung to the image of Clark Gable, an ideal man, surely a gentleman.  But Gable was a fantasy.  No wonder that she married twenty-one-year-old aircraft plant worker Jim Dougherty at the tender age of sixteen.  Norma Jean longed for a distraction, and she thought marriage to Jim could provide a means to escape her life.

 

While married to Jim, Norma Jean first slipped into the role of Marilyn Monroe.  In 1945, Norma Jean worked at Timm Aircraft plant at Metropolitan Airport in Van Nuys, California.  Norma Jean is so desperate to be liked and to be noticed that when she tells her fellow workers, mostly women, about herself, “her stories don’t always match.”  At the plant, she does not stand out.  She is just another woman working outside the home to support the war effort.

 

One day, though, her life changes.  Captain Ronald Reagan arranges for a spread of pretty girls working on airplane fuselages to appear in Yank magazine.  “That kind of story is sure to raise morale.”  The photographer, a young army private, starts snapping photographs of the women.  He gets to Norma Jean.

 

“Then,” Braver writes, “something curious happens.  The private snaps a photo of her.  And then he snaps another.”  He is transfixed by her.  “Not only does he stop moving down the line, it’s as though he’s been walled off.  He drops his bag to the floor and kicks it forward; his legs go into a horseback-riding stance, and he brings the camera up to his face with both hands and starts clicking.”  He takes “one picture after the next.”

 

Under the photographer’s attention, Norma Jean becomes someone else.  “It’s like her bones have settled into something more solid,” Braver writes.  “Her walk is poised.”  The male workers “take notice like something around her is all sexed up.”  The little girl look vanishes, “leaving a womanly confidence that is at once stunning, alluring, and a little frightening.”  It is as if Norma Jean has “grown a little larger.”  Those around her stare.  Norma Jean is not Norma Jean anymore.  She has become Marilyn Monroe.

 

And so it began.  Later, more and more photos appeared in magazines.  She eventually divorced Jim and went on to make movies.  Marriages and divorces to Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller soon followed.  Both men had an image of her that she just could not live up to.  DiMaggio wanted her to be a housewife and perhaps mother.  Miller wanted her to be an intellectual.  She tried and moved to New York with him.  Marilyn studied at the Actors Studio, but she still felt objectified and inadequate.  In her eyes, she was always less than.

 

In Braver’s story, we see the enormous amount of work it took for Marilyn to be Marilyn.  She could be anything or anybody, but her role took preparation.  Often, she did what she thought people expected her to do.  For example, while filming The Misfits, the movie Miller wrote for Marilyn, she was late for scenes.  She was also popping pills.  She played the diva, but it was not a natural role for her.  She spent most of her time not preparing for her parts in films but preparing for her role as Marilyn.  Sometimes it was frustrating for her, especially when the men in her life wanted her to be someone she did not want to be.

 

The most dependable man in Marilyn’s life, Braver implies, was Frank Sinatra.  Sinatra accepted Marilyn for who she was.  As Braver writes, Sinatra was the “one solid thing for her.”  If you are hoping to find a flashback that explores Marilyn’s relationship with President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert F. Kennedy, you will be disappointed.  Braver avoids mentioning any kind of relationship between Marilyn and the Kennedy brothers in Misfit, which is a real shame.  While such allegations can be controversial, ignoring them leaves a hole in this novel.  The Kennedy brothers, surely, shaped her just as much as the other men in her life.  Braver seems to be avoiding controversy by ignoring this subject.  Their inclusion would have made a good book an even better one.

 

During that weekend, Sinatra saw how fragile Marilyn was.  He ordered her to “pack her bags and go home.”  But even he could see she was spiraling out of control from alcohol and drugs.

 

The weekend she spent at Sinatra’s resort was the last weekend of her life.  On August 5, 1962, Marilyn was found dead, naked in her bed, by her psychiatrist.  The coroner ruled it a probable suicide.  In the 1967 film Valley of the Dolls, Sharon Tate played the pill-popping actress Jennifer North.  Upon learning she has breast cancer, Jennifer overdoses on sleeping pills.  Before she dies, Jennifer says bitterly, “All I have is a body.”  Marilyn could relate.

 

As Braver writes, the embalming fluid caused Marilyn’s breast tissue to deflate, making her chest “flat as a twelve-year-old boy.”  Mary, a co-owner of the mortuary where her body rests, is horrified.  “I can’t send her out like this,” Mary cries.  “Not in front of Mr. DiMaggio.  Or her family.”  So Mary sets out to recreate Marilyn Monroe.  She gathers all the cotton she can find from the supply cabinet and fills Marilyn’s bosom with handfuls of cotton.  “Now that looks like Marilyn Monroe,” Mary affirms.  The embalmer initially thought it would make her body look freakish, but he is astounded as the cotton “makes her look strangely more lifelike…”  The embalmer cannot help but think of DiMaggio and how he will feel as he looks at Marilyn for the last time.

 

DiMaggio, the embalmer believes, will be pleased with how good Marilyn looks.  He thinks of what will go through former baseball star’s head as he looks at his former wife.  DiMaggio, the embalmer thinks, will blame her death on Hollywood.  He “can’t help but suspect that this version of her actually is the one Mr. DiMaggio wants to remember, and that has got to be a killer because it means he, Joe DiMaggio, is a part of it too.”

 

At the end, Marilyn is just a body.  To a lot of people, though, that is all she ever was.  But Marilyn was much more complicated than that.  Fact or fiction or something in between, Braver’s Misfit is fascinating.  When Marilyn exits stage left, you will be on your feet shouting “Bravo!”

 

 

 

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Book Review: The Year of the Gadfly by Jennifer Miller

                                 The Year of the Gadfly by Jennifer Miller (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 384 pages; $24).

Iris Dupont, a budding high school journalist, carries on conversations with the ghost of Edward R. Murrow.  As she explains, “…Yes, I knew he’d been dead for forty-seven years, but why should a person limit her interlocutors to the living?”  Odd?  Yes.  Then again, Iris is not your typical young woman.  Quiet, introspective, and highly intelligent, Iris is just one of the quirky characters who drive Jennifer Miller’s The Year of the Gadfly.

Miller’s title is an apt one.  Socrates’s critics called him the gadfly of Athens: “No matter how hard his opponents tried to swat him away, he kept biting them with difficult questions.”  Like Socrates, Iris is the horsefly in this story.  She asks the hard questions, the queries everyone else wants to sweep under a rug.

Iris has had a difficult year.  Her best friend, Dalia, dies.  The death sends Iris into a depression.  Her family moves so that Iris can attend storied Mariana Academy, whose code is “brotherhood, truth, [and] equality.”  The family rents a house that once was home to the former headmaster of the academy.  Iris sleeps in a room where the headmaster’s daughter once slept.  Her name was Lily.  Iris feels odd living there: “…Maybe we were dopplengangers, since I was a flower (Iris) and she was a flower (Lily).  Of course, Lilies were no competition for Irises…Lilies…reeked of death.  Even in new bloom, their sweetness smelled rotten.”

Foreshadowing is just one of the plot devices in which Miller shows off her skills.  Traveling to the school with her mother, Iris notices that “the mountainous peaks resembled teeth.  The road stretched between them like a black tongue.  And here we were, in our small vehicle, speeding toward that awful mouth.”  One cannot help but wonder if the school will swallow Iris.

To Iris, Mariana “screamed asylum more than school.”  Her journalistic nose senses something sinister within its walls, and her hunch is proven correct.  A powerful secret society called Prisom’s Party rules the school.  Prisom’s Party gets students expelled and even teachers fired.  What would Edward R. Murrow do?  She asks his ghost this question, and he answers her.

Iris decides she will investigate Prisom’s Party as she works on the school newspaper.  Miller makes it difficult for Iris at every turn.  And that is what makes this a good mystery.

Miller adds to the suspense by introducing two other characters and alternating the story among their distinctive points of view.  Jonah Kaplan is Iris’s teacher who once attended Mariana with his twin brother.  Because the story shifts back and forth through time, readers see the teenage Jonah, nerdy and unsure, and Mr. Kaplan, the instructor who instills fear and awe in his students.

Mr. Kaplan’s lessons are not only about biology; they are also about life: “Embracing extremity will bring out the characteristics that make you unique and independent–different from everybody else.”  Miller draws comparisons between adolescents and extremophiles (extreme-loving organisms) by illustrating how very few teens are left unscarred by adolescence.  The teenage years are difficult ones, and few emerge unscathed from those years.  Mr. Kaplan himself still carries the weight of his adolescence.

One of Miller’s biggest themes is bullying.  Prisom’s Party is, in all respects, the biggest bully on Mariana’s campus.  They may as well rule the school.  Miller shows how prevalent bullying is in schools all across the country and how dangerous bullying can be.

In a narrative that consists of flashbacks, Miller illustrates how Lily is bullied.  Lily is albino, and her difference makes her a target.  In contrast to the first-person narratives of Iris and Mr. Kaplan, Miller tells Lily’s story in the third person.  Yet the effect is not one of detachment.  Far from it.  Lily’s account may be the strongest in The Year of the Gadfly, especially when Iris finds a book called Marvelous Species that once belonged to Lily.  The book further intrigues Iris and plunges her deeper and deeper into the mysteries surrounding Prisom’s Party and Lily’s fate.

I recommend The Year of the Gadfly to fans of Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep, Amber Dermont’s The Starboard Sea, and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History.  Miller’s story is intelligent, sharp, and eye-opening.  Miller shines as she describes the pain of adolescence and aptly compares high school to the political dealings of a Third World nation.  “In high school,” Miller warns, “you never knew who was your enemy and who was your friend.”  Keep that warning in mind as you read The Year of the Gadfly.  As in Miller’s novel, our enemies sometimes disguise themselves as our friends.  Iris should be vigilant.

Look at the new paperback cover!

Look at the new paperback cover!

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Finding Your Own Starboard Sea

The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermont (St. Martin’s Press; 320 pages; $24.99).

            On the surface, Amber Dermont’s debut novel The Starboard Sea may seem superficial.  It is about a teenager from a wealthy family and his boarding school.  What problems could a teen named Jason Prosper have anyway?  Yet Dermont’s plot-driven story has great depth and deeper meaning as she transports readers back to the 1980s and provides us lots of teen angst along the way.  But The Starboard Sea is no John Hughes-type of tale; The Starboard Sea is intelligent, dark, and riveting.

In Jason Prosper’s world, appearances matter.  Why tell the truth when a lie sounds so much better?  It comes as no surprise that Jason has few role models in his life.  Jason, the scion of a wealthy New England family, watches the Iran-Contra hearings with his mother in the summer of 1987.  At seventeen, he has already learned that no one, not even the president, tells the truth.  Everyone has secrets; everyone tells lies—even his parents.  Jason’s mother dons different wigs in an attempt to disguise herself and catch her husband cheating.  She does not believe her husband is faithful.  It is important to point out that the country is on the brink of a stock market crash all because of overvaluing and devaluing the market.  Dermont writes in such a way that deception lurks on every page of this novel.  The reader must understand the deceit that abounds throughout the story before she can then appreciate Jason’s character.  Dermont’s Jason is a product of everything that happens around him.  Because of his elders who constantly drift to and fro with their inconsistencies, Jason is adrift; he is in danger of going under.

In addition to misleading authority figures, Jason’s world also includes “fake cousins” and John Singer Sargent portraits.  Jason and his family are so close with some friends that they have become a kind of quasi-family, even though they are not related.  In his family’s New York City apartment, a Sargent portrait of his great-great-grandmother hangs on the wall.  Not even the portrait is a true conceptualization of his ancestor: “Sargent was notorious for making rich people more attractive than they actually were, and my great-great-grandmother was no exception.”  Sargent airbrushed her into something she was most definitely not–a great beauty.

With all I have mentioned previously, it is quite understandable that this kid, whom his father calls “damaged goods,” carries a lot of baggage.  Most pressing to Jason, though, is the death of his best friend.  It was a suicide, and Jason was first to find the body.  After Cal’s death, Jason enters Bellingham Academy, “island of misfit toys” and place of second chances. 

Bellingham, in itself, is quite intriguing.  The boarding school is located in the town of Bellinghem, Massachusetts.  The founders of the academy think Bellingham simply looks “better on the letterhead.”  Dermont uses this to show yet another example of how Jason is surrounded only by facades.  Very little is real.  Dermont gives us a setting so real and so believable.  She takes her time drawing us into the world she has created.  She sets up the story well.

With all his baggage and heartache, Jason is a very tragic figure.  Cal’s death leaves him reeling.  The two had known each other since they were four and were on the sailing team together.  They won many trophies on the water.  Even at Bellingham, Jason cannot forget Cal.  “Even wet shoes” remind him of his deceased friend.  Jason tries out for the school’s sailing team, but a mishap occurs.  Jason saves the youth but decides to forego sailing without Cal.

At Bellingham, he feels lonely but soon meets someone to fill the void in his life.  He is drawn to a curious and beautiful girl at Bellingham named Aidan.   She owns shoes that she claims were owned by Fred Astaire.  Aidan is a murky figure.  Some things that she says seem less than truthful.  In my opinion, Aidan is Dermont’s most intriguing character.  Aidan’s father may or may not be Robert Mitchum.  Her mother, Aidan swears, is the inspiration for the Eagles’ song Hotel California.

Not surprisingly, Jason falls in love with Aidan.  Soon, all he thinks about are Cal and Aidan, Aidan and Cal.  Dermont, though, brings in a game-changer.  In a nod to the man versus nature conflict, Dermont orchestrates the landfall of a major hurricane on the town of Bellinghem.  The storm devastates both the town and the academy, leaving Jason to contend with yet another loss.

Since accidents and deaths follow Jason, he often thinks of Jessica McClure.  McClure was the toddler who, at eighteen months of age, fell into a well in the backyard of her Midland, Texas, home on October 14, 1987.  After 58 hours, she was saved.  Baby Jessica was saved.  Dermont adds this element to the story to underscore how lost Jason feels.  Jason cannot help but wonder who will save him.  He feels he is drowning but sees no life raft.  Where is his rescue crew to pull him from his abyss?

Because Jason loves the water, Dermont uses ocean motifs throughout her tale.  She is especially fond of sailing metaphors.  This, surprisingly, never grows tiresome and strengthens the narrative.  Her passages are visually stunning.  I want to share some of my favorites.  When Jason sees Bellingham for the first time: “The entire school appeared to float on water, like a life raft.  I felt weightless.  The rhythm of the waves reminded me of naval hymns, of songs about peril and rescue.”  To describe himself after Cal’s death, Jason reveals, “Since Cal’s death, I’d developed a nasty habit of capsizing.”  To describe the hurricane’s devastation, Dermont writes: “Poseidon had struck his trident, summoning his flood, turning Bellingham into a temporary Atlantis.”

Even the novel’s title is a nod to Dermont’s sailing metaphors.  The “starboard sea” means “the right sea, the true sea, or like finding the best path in life.”  In writing this novel, Dermont has truly discovered her own starboard sea.  I hope she does not stray from this, her right path, her own starboard sea.

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This Novel Has Heft

 

Heft by Liz Moore (W.W. Norton & Company; 352 pages; $24.95).

            Arthur Opp last left his house on September 11, 2001, to see smoke blanketing the Manhattan skyline in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  Arthur has not ventured out his door since in Liz Moore’s poignant yet hopeful novel Heft.  Ms. Moore chose the perfect title for a tale with larger-than-life characters and enormous emotional heft.

 

Ms. Moore uses two distinctive voices to act as the narrator-protagonists of Heft.  By switching back and forth between Arthur and Kel Keller, she builds tension and urges me to keep reading.  And I do.  In fact, I often could not stop myself.

 

Arthur is a former professor who no longer leaves his house.  He weighs between five and six hundred pounds and acknowledges he is “colossally fat.”  Everything he needs he orders online.  Arthur explains, “My home sometimes feels like a shipping center; every day, sometimes twice a day, somebody brings something to me.  The FedEx man, the UPS man.  So you see I’m not entirely a shut-in because I must sign for these things.”  Arthur, therefore, is not totally shut out or shut off from the world.

 

His primary relationship is with a former student, Charlene Turner, with whom he exchanges letters.  The two have been doing this for years, although Charlene’s responses have been sporadic lately.  For a time, the two were very close, but that was before Charlene’s marriage.  Still, Charlene means the world to Arthur.  In a letter to her, he writes, “Whether or not you have known it you have been my anchor in the world.  You & your letters & your very existence have provided me with more comfort than I can explain.”

 

When Charlene requests that Arthur help her son, he has to tell her that he has changed and that he is no longer teaching.  All these years, Arthur has kept the truth from Charlene.  Yet Charlene has been keeping some secrets from Arthur, as well.

 

Since Ms. Moore never pities Arthur and he never pities himself, I do not either.  His life and situation are not ideal, it is true.  Ms. Moore uses his weight as an outward manifestation of his pain, unhappiness, and disappointments.  We all have them.  Arthur is not alone in his failures.  We all have excess baggage.  Some of us just hide them better than others do.

 

In contrast to Arthur, Kel Keller, Ms. Moore’s other narrator-protagonist, carries his pain on the inside.  Kel is Charlene’s son.  He is a high-school student who excels in sports, particularly baseball.  Kel’s worries are weightier than those of most of his fellow students.  He has had to watch as his mother drinks herself to death.  Kel has had to be a kind of parent to Charlene, who loves her T-shirt that reads “It’s Five O’clock Somewhere.”  Kel confesses, “When she is very bad, usually I will tell her things to calm her down.  I will tell her Mom, Mom.  We have to be quiet because the neighbors will call.  We have to be very quiet.  Come up here with me on the couch.  Come watch your show.”  Sometimes when Charlene is “very bad,” Kel feeds her “like a baby.”

 

One night, Kel smells the alcohol on her before he even sees her.  He finds her passed out on the bathroom floor with the telephone in her hand.  Kel thinks she is dead, “My God she’s dead is what I think.  She’s dead this time.”  He crouches down beside her and starts to cry.  “WAKE up,” he tells her.  Then, she opens her eyes.  For Charlene and Kel, this is a pattern.  Yet when Kel is at school or on the field, he acts as if everything is all right in his world.  Only on the field and in the occasional fight can Kel blow off steam.

 

While Kel looks forward to impressing a Major League scout, Arthur slowly starts to make his way out into the world once again.  Charlene makes a choice, though, that changes everything.  It is a tragedy that finally brings Arthur and Kel together.

 

Ms. Moore connects these two people, who at first seem worlds apart, in astounding, clever ways.  I especially admire the many flaws each character has that enhance the story.  Ms. Moore lends an authenticity and a likeability to them, and I am engaged and won over.

 

Well-written novels are harder and harder to come by these days, which is why I recognize and admire good prose when I see it.  Ms. Moore has a real gift for language.  For example, Arthur believes he was “destined for solitude, very certain that one day it would find me, so when it did I was not surprised & even welcomed it.”  And Kel describes his performance for the scout: “I swing.  I miss.  I wait.  A strike.  A ground ball.  A strike.  It’s not terrible—I take a piece out of a lot of them, and I hit one more home run—but I’m not here.  I fail…I want to feel sorry for myself, but I almost feel relieved.”

 

I find myself empathizing, but never sympathizing, with Arthur and Kel.  I develop a true connection with them.  I cheer them on; I laugh with them; I cry with them; I grieve with them.  Such a thing does not happen everyday while reading novels.  It is a rare and precious thing, indeed.  For me, Heft has become beloved.

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