Muckers by Sandra Neil Wallace

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The Plot in 5 Sentences or Less:  Red O’Sullivan is a senior at Hatley High School in a mining town in Arizona in the fall of 1950.  He is also the quarterback for the Hatley Muckers, who haven’t made a push for the title since 1941, when Red’s brother Bobby was QB.  Bobby’s death in World War II exacerbated his father’s drinking and his mother’s loss of sanity.  Red hopes to redeem his school and his family by leading his team to the championship cup. But larger forces at work; the Korean War is raging, the mine is closing, and the school is shutting down.

My Take:  The Korean War.  The mine closing. The school shutting down.  The alcoholic father.  The insane mother.  The dead brother.  The corrupt priest.  Wallace piles on a mountain (no pun intended) of trouble onto the protagonist.  By the middle of the book, I began feeling like perhaps this was all too much, as if the book were a parody of some blue collar nightmare set in the southwest.  Or perhaps this was Friday Night Lights in Arizona.  I believe that a tighter focus on fewer problems may have yielded a more powerful read.  However, I commend Wallace for offering the reader an unfamiliar time and place in history.  Sports fans and history buffs may enjoy this book.  Ages 12+

One Interesting Note About the Author:  Sandra Neil Wallace was for many years an ESPN sports announcer.  According to her website, her favorite ice cream is Tiger Tiger (a mix of licorice and orange sherbert!).  It is a flavor easily found in Canada but not the United States.

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