We read and review for the love and joy of books.
Genre: M/M Sport
Wow! This has the most powerful, poignant, and shocking story ending of any book I’ve ever read (or listened to). I’m going to start this review the way I usually end one—with the recommendations. My priority recommendation is that you listen to the audiobook. First, because Michael Ferraiuolo is very easy to listen to; both his narrative and the voices he gives the characters are interesting and varied. And second, because it’s not as easy to skip ahead to the last pages when you get to the part where you think this can’t be happening. If you have a paper copy or e-book, you might well do that, but the ending is well worth the wait.
Set in the summer of 1983, at the height of major league baseball season, this story revolves around Trent Days, a catcher for the Houston team and on track for Rookie of the Year. Because he was born and raised in Alaska, the son of an Inupiat mother, the press refer to him as The Eskimo Slugger. When a collision at home plate sends him to the disabled list, he heads home to Austin to recuperate. There he meets law student Brendan Baxter who is working his way through school by clerking at the local record store. The need to return a scratched record shortly after he bought it leads him back to the store and he and Brendan decide to grab a cup of coffee together.
Over the course of the next week, the two are inseparable. It’s obvious to those around them that they are in love. However, neither man expresses it out loud because the reality is that Trent can’t be both gay and a major league baseball player, and they know their time together is limited. Over the course of their time together we are introduced to many characters, most of whom support their relationship without coming right out and discussing it. After all, this is the eighties.
One of the key characters is Brendan’s landlord, Bill. Over a shared joint, the trio have many enjoyable late night conversations. Another is Quincy, the owner of Les Amis, the local hangout where the men first went for their coffee date. The café is the hub of the local intellectual community where discussions are mostly philosophical with a bit of the practical thrown in. The owner is a character who sees auras around the two men. Both are blue, but with gold sparks igniting between them, something he’s never seen before. Over the course of the story we come to see that their destinies are intertwined.
Yet another set of supporting characters are Stanton and Hutch, two gay men who come to visit and share their wisdom with the gay virgins. Stanton is the boy who Brendan shared his first sexual contact with when he was a teen. Brendan can’t fully explain why, but when he remembered how badly he had treated Stanton after that, he called to apologize. One thing led to another and Stanton offered to bring his partner out to visit and be available for advice.
When Trent is called back to Houston, he’s shocked when Brendan tells him it’s over. Brendan has decided to come out as a gay man and he plans to head to New York when he’s done with law school. He doesn’t see how Trent can possibly have Brendan in his life as a closeted ball player. Trent walks away, devastated, and unable to cope with his feelings. That night he’s visited by the spirit of Koda, his best friend from childhood, a young boy on whom he had a crush but who died in a fishing accident when they were teens. Koda reminds him that Eskimos strongly believe in the spirit world and that it’s all true. There is life after death. Our souls live on and may be reincarnated over and over again. He also gets Trent to admit that family is the most important thing in life, and that family is the answer to all his problems. He then tells Trent that something big is coming but that he shouldn’t be afraid.
Trent realizes then that Brendan is his family and his heart, and he returns quickly to let Brendan know that he plans to come out. He hopes that somewhere there’s a baseball team that will let him play, but if not, he’ll find another career. Brendan is more important to him than anything else. First, they need to fly to Alaska to tell Trent’s family, and after that, Brendan’s family and the team management.
What happens on that trip is the culmination of all of the subtle philosophical and spiritual plot lines planted and interwoven by the author. I must say that it shocked me so much that I’d recommend that the last hour of the audiobook be heard in a safe environment. Do not operate a motor vehicle or heavy equipment. Have tissues ready. The bottom line is that, on reflection, it makes so much sense that I’ve decided to forgive the author for shocking me so thoroughly. The very last chapter of the story is told in the present day, and I’ve decided to take it in the spirit in which it was intended. I forgive you, Brad Boney.
I’ll stress again that the audiobook is excellent, and I highly recommend it. This story is perfect for those who remember, and would like to revisit, the early 80’s, those who love sports and the complications of being gay in professional sports, and for those who love a good tear-jerker. It’s M/M romance at its best.