As the title suggests, Brookhouse is fascinated by the textures of everyday life in the past, as Lenny faces each day in a small town in the era of Camaros and the triumph of Billie Jean King. Dialogue is witty and often discursive, with talk of “rocks for jocks” remedial geology courses, and one character describing a class in the history of sports as “You trace how kicking some poor devil’s skull around an ancient town in Italy became soccer.” Brookhouse adores local color, stirring immediate feelings of camaraderie or contempt for each new character Lenny encounters, scenes rendered in crisp, engaging prose.
Lenny’s relationship with Wallace proves the novel’s most fascinating, despite the hero’s occasional (non-explicit) dalliances. The athlete quite literally doesn’t fit in—chairs at school are too small for him—and Brookhouse handles the complexities of inter-racial attraction connection (and, between these two young men and some female characters, potential romance) with a light touch, while never shying away from the reality of Wallace’s experience. The novel glances against these serious issues, plus true-to-life complications involving tutoring and academic honesty, without losing its sure footing, genial warmth, and commitment to the feeling of how it was there and then.
Takeaway: Warm slice-of-life drama of race, love, and tutoring in a 1980s North Carolina college.
Comparable Titles: Jane Smiley’s Moo, Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding.
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: A-