Friday, October 5, 2018
Paperback Published October 2018 by William Morrow Paperbacks
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Football is the heartbeat of Brownwood, Texas. Every Friday night for as long as assistant principal Tylene Wilson can remember, the entire town has gathered in the stands, cheering their boys on. Each September brings with it the hope of a good season and a sense of unity and optimism.
Now, the war has changed everything. Most of the Brownwood men over 18 and under 45 are off fighting, and in a small town the possibilities are limited. Could this mean a season without football? But no one counted on Tylene, who learned the game at her daddy’s knee. She knows more about it than most men, so she does the unthinkable, convincing the school to let her take on the job of coach.
Faced with extreme opposition—by the press, the community, rival coaches, and referees and even the players themselves—Tylene remains resolute. And when her boys rally around her, she leads the team—and the town—to a Friday night and a subsequent season they will never forget.
When I was offered this book for review, I only read far enough to know it was a book about a woman coaching football. That's all it took to get me interested and I never read the summary until just now as I posted it.
Initially I wasn't sure I'd post the full review; after all, doesn't knowing up front that the boys will rally around Tylene and that she will actually get to coach sort of ruin the book. Then I realized that as I was reading, there was never any doubt in my mind that this is how the book would end. Why else would you tell the story, especially when you know that it's based on a true story. All of which brings to me one of the things I really liked about this book - Lewis has managed to keep up a level of tension you wouldn't expect when the outcome of the book is a foregone conclusion, but in a way that never feels overly manipulative.
And what else did I like about this book? The football, of course! Lewis had a long career as a sportswriter; in fact, she was assigned to cover the Dallas Cowboys football team for three decades. To say the lady knows her football is an understatement. Sure, Lewis might have done plenty of research about football and probably have made the book work. But Lewis clearly knows the game; she knows the roles of the various positions, she knows the strategy, she knows the plays. Even more impressive is that Lewis has included plays that are true to the time period of the book.
There's a lot of emotional stuff going on in the book - the war, of course, Parkinson's disease, alcoholism, PTSD, the death of children. Lewis could have dialed some of that back a bit but I never really minded it. With a book this short, the focus was always squarely on Tylene's coaching story and Lewis didn't have room to get carried away. Perhaps that harkens back to her days a sportswriter - keep the reader emotionally involved but know your story. Lewis knows her story.
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