Hands Down pairs its story of coming-of-age in a time of societal upheaval with a series of character-rich vignettes worthy of Donald Harrington, all with a healthy dose of history thrown in as the tale unspools. As the war in Vietnam escalates, a group of draft dodgers has taken up residence on the outskirts of a small Iowa town; local politics complicate everything, of course, as does a bullying powerhouse of a lawyer and a developer’s plan for “small and shabby” housing.
Figel’s style is fast-paced and to the point, though the point, here, is usually his desire to catch the full blush of a moment, the drift of characters’ minds, the comic tenor of their talk, the ways things truly work, and how the sky on a sunny afternoon eventually yields a “great horizon of pink and orange.” Those moments and characters are the key to this journey of a novel, as Figel, adept at arcs and human surprises, brings rare empathy and understanding to the trials and triumphs of his people. The connections between them, when revealed, may elicit a-ha!s from readers.
Takeaway: This vivid novel of Iowa in the tumultuous 1960s bursts with empathy and character.
Great for fans of: Ken Babbs’s Cronies, Donald Harington.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B