It's often said that we can never go home. After spending more than a decade in various institutions and halfway houses, Roy Alison feels that home is the best chance he has for starting a new life, a better life. When he returns to the rural hometown where he grew up though, he finds it has changed a great deal and the future doesn't quite look as rosy anymore.
Country Hardball is one of those books that frustrates me to no end. I can't tell you how many times I changed my rating on this one from 3 stars, to 4, and back again. I really enjoyed the layout of the book which is quite different to most books I read in that it's a novel-in-stories. The writing style really drew me in and I found it to be beautiful, and haunting, while at the same time, gritty and raw with splashes of brutality. It definitely catches the attention of the reader and fires the imagination.
Each individual story has a lot of impact, but together it adds a whole other level. That said I believe that the change in narration could be difficult for some. What made it difficult for me to rate is that while I loved the writing style and the emotional journey, I couldn't really connect with some of the characters and that is a factor that always makes or breaks a book with me. That said, I will be revisiting it because the characters I could connect with (especially the father in the first heartbreaking story) do a fantastic job of haunting the reader long after the last page has been turned.
The cover of the book also deserves a mention. It's eye-catching and captures the mostly sombre mood of the book as a whole. I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention that the title refers to baseball, a theme that pops up throughout the pages and added to my enjoyment.
One of the most surprising things about this book is that it's a first novel by Steve Weddle and if this is what he brings to the table as a debut, I can't wait to see what comes next.
I'm happy to share that one of the stories has been made available for readers who'd like to peek inside the book. Incidentally, The Ravine is one of my favourites! You can read it here.
Author's website: http://steveweddle.com/