Author: Billy Coffey
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Release Date: January 2, 2018
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewer: Jessica Higgins
Batter up! Coffey’s produced another hit that’s sure to be a grand slam!
Owen Cross was brought up to do one thing: play baseball. His father was a promising pitcher that would have made it to the big leagues if he hadn’t blown out his shoulder in college. Instead of facing disappointment in his life, he focused all his ambitions onto his son to make it for both of them. He found work as the school janitor in Camden, Virginia and continued to make his son the best catcher and hitter that the school could produce. Owen also focused on his love of baseball until he met Michaela Dullahan, a young girl from Shantytown. She was poor, abused, lonely, and considered plain white trash. Owen immediately fell in love with her and they quickly formed a bond. He was going to go off to play college ball and she would go with him to save her from a life of despair. Then the night of senior prom changed everything. A stupid idea of some classmate’s decision to play chicken with the train brought forth a supernatural experience to Owen and Michaela that will change them forever and possibly drive them apart.
Of all Coffey’s novels, this one may be the one that speaks the most to me. It reminds me so much of the town that I grew up in and how divided and cliquish it was. Even though I grew up in Texas, the same scenarios took place at high school. My husband also read the book and said it sparked a memory of his from high school as well. There was a girl a couple of years younger than him that was considered white trash who had to walk about three miles to school every day. No one would pick her up along the way, they just passed her by. Than one day, he decided to give her a ride to school, which then turned into most days. They never really talked along the five minute drive, but she always said thank you when they got there. One day while sitting in his car, he overhead a group of kids talking about him, mostly in a negative aspect. Out of nowhere, the girl that he helped stood up for him to the group. All it takes is a little kindness to make a difference.
As always, Coffey’s books deal with the supernatural and with religion. This book once again puts the small town church in the spotlight with its traditions and prejudices that members are often blind to. And it’s not just in small town churches. I’ve seen the same thing happen in many churches where people go to socialize more than get sustenance for their faith. If someone they didn’t like from town were to suddenly show up, would they be able to show kindness? Or try to keep them from coming in? We always hope for the former, but sometimes the latter is true in our hearts.
Being a fan of baseball, I thoroughly enjoyed how Coffey told the story through the innings of a major league baseball game. Alternating between Owen’s present troubles and thinking of his past really kept the story flowing well. I was just enjoying the story and wanted to know the middle to see how things dissolved when I reached the train scene and everything got thrown for a loop in true Coffey fashion. I also thought it was interesting that we jumped out of Mattingly again, except for the championship baseball game, which featured Junior Hewitt who once struck out Chipper Jones in the majors (read There Will be Stars).
All this to say, Coffey is on his game and I recommend this book to supernatural lovers and anyone who loves a good story.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.