Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-01-11
- Reviewer: Staff
A real-life football tragedy—the sacking of Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann by New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor in a 1985 game, and the career-ending injury that Theismann sustained as a result—is the foundation of this wryly amusing rumination on manhood and male bonding. Every year for the past 16 years, 22 men have convened at a hotel at an unnamed location off of Interstate 95 to physically re-enact the historic game. What at first seems a slightly screwball form of fantasy football—the men are assigned their roles through a lottery governed by an idiosyncratically detailed set of rules—gradually reveals itself to be a metaphor-rich elaboration of the rules and regulations that shape mature male life. As the men discuss their static marriages and their difficult relationships with their children, the allure of the game—especially the time before the fateful play when “the things that had not happened yet were greater than the things that had happened”—becomes clear. Although Bachelder’s (U.S.!) characters sometimes blend indistinguishably into one another—perhaps not unintentionally—the anxieties and concerns that define them are genuine. One man, considering why people marry, theorizes that “the only thing marriage can really give you is the sense that your life is witnessed by another person.” In one hilarious scene, three men supposedly step out to share a ritual smoke, making it awkwardly impossible for each to reveal to the others that he gave up smoking that year. Filled with subtle humor and incisive insights, Bachelder’s novel will resonate with anyone who has pondered the game of life. (Mar.)