Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Brad Boney Hit It Out of the Park

It’s the summer of 1983, and Trent Days is Major League Baseball’s rookie sensation. Born in Alaska to an Inupiat mother, the press have dubbed him the Eskimo Slugger, but a midseason collision at home plate temporarily halts his meteoric rise to the top.
Sent back to Austin to recuperate, Trent visits his favorite record store, Inner Sanctum, where he meets amiable law student Brendan Baxter. A skip in the vinyl of New Order’s “Blue Monday” drives Trent back to Brendan, and their romance takes them into uncharted territory.
As Trent’s feelings move from casual to serious, he’s faced with an impossible dilemma. Does he abandon any hope of a future with Brendan and return to the shadows and secrets of professional sports? Or does he embrace the possibility of real love and leave baseball behind him forever? As he struggles with his decision, Trent embarks on a journey of self-discovery—to figure out who he really is and what matters most.
If you have read Brad Boney’s The Return, then you know how The Eskimo Slugger ends, but don’t let that deter you from reading this book. Boney like Trent Days, the Eskimo Slugger, hits this one out of the park. The way Boney is able to interweave these stories together is truly awe-inspiring. If you have read The Nothingness of Ben and The Return, you know that the end of this book is really the beginning of The Nothingness of Ben. Boney has managed to create this beautiful circular set of books that literally bleeds one into the other so that you want to just keep going round and round the merry-go-round. (If it weren't for the fact that Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchmen was released yesterday, I would have done just that, but I've waited all my life for another book by Harper Lee.)
The backstory is very complex, but not so complex that the average reader is unable to keep up with the nuances of the story. This is Brad Boney at his finest. He had a tremendous talent for weaving several stories together at once, but the reader doesn't necessarily know that. Then at the end, it all comes together. However, if you love a good puzzle (I won’t call it a mystery), you will love finding all of the pieces within the story and putting them together. I found myself referencing both of the earlier books time and again with the “treasures” that were revealed throughout this book. Without completely giving away all the secrets just know that all three books are inter-related in various ways and little bits of their stories, past and present are slipped in throughout the story.
This being 1983 and thirty years before today's openness about sex, there are some pretty funny forays into discussions of gay sex. The two main characters explore each other and relatively unexplored aspect to their personalities. Today’s youth doesn't have the same issues with coming out and being open as young men in the early 1980s, even in a progressive southern city like Austin, Texas. It was a different time period when AIDS was unheard of in the public, and being in the closet was a way of life for many Americans outside of places like New York City and San Francisco. Even though New Orleans had a gay community at the time, it was not as open as today. Boney realizes this as he discusses homosexuality in the early 1980s.
I wish I had a portion of the talent Brad Boney has for story telling. He really is a master, and I highly recommend this book. Boney has a tremendous talent, and he doesn't disappoint in this third installment of this series that began with The Nothingness of Ben. I highly encourage anyone to read The Nothingness of Ben and The Return before reading this book, or else the ending will not make sense and you'll be left greatly unsatisfied.
I listened to The Eskimo Slugger as an audiobook, because I just don't have the time to stop and read, so when I am driving, this is when I get in my “reading.” The Nothingness of Ben and The Return were narrated by Canadian actor Charlie David who did a wonderful job. He gave all of the characters a distinct voice and emotions, and he was an absolute joy to listen to. I was disappointed to see that he did not narrate The Eskimo Slugger. That job went to Michael Ferraluolo who did an excellent job with the book.  I think the continuity would have been great if Charlie David had been the narrator, but Michael Ferraluolo didn’t disappoint with his performance. He has a great voice that is easy to listen to and did a nice job differentiating the characters, though there were a few instances when his character’s accents slipped away. I really got into the emotion of the story and even managed to do a nice job with the female voices.
And yes, Eskimo Slugger is the name of an alcoholic beverage:
1 1/2 oz Bailey's® Irish cream
1 oz Absolut® vodka
1/2 oz Rumple Minze® peppermint liqueur
Pour all three ingredients into a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice cubes. Shake well. Strain into a small old-fashioned or rocks glass, and serve.
I agree with Trent Days in the book, it sounds terribly vile to me too.


Susan said...

Hi Joe,

I loved the Nothingness of Ben, but found myself struggling to finish The Return. That may be why I didn't realize a third book had been released. I will definitely picked up this one. Thanks, as always, for a superlative review. :)

nikki said...

I love the way his characters are interconnected -- he's just a super writer.