Picks and Pans Review: The Last Magic Summer
Real men—and real women, too—may find themselves getting misty-eyed over this powerful and surprisingly poignant memoir by the former NFL receiver best-known for his rowdy football novel North Dallas Forty. Ostensibly a journal of his final season coaching Connie Mack baseball in Bangor, Mich., before his son Carter leaves for college, this heartfelt chronicle is no more about the national pastime than Remembrance of Things Past is about pastry.
Gent's account of his efforts to mold a ragtag bunch of "hillbilly boys" into a team who can see themselves as winners is deftly interwoven with flashbacks to his own days of grace in baseball, basketball and football and the troubled times that followed his pro career. He describes his nightmarish three-year custody battle for Carter; the trials of being a financially strapped single parent; and the terrible toll taken by pro football on his body and spirit. The arthritic 50-year-old—smoking in the dugout to give himself a headache that will dull his chronic pain—wants desperately to believe in the limitless possibilities that youth, enthusiasm and a stiff breeze blowing toward the outfield can bring. But everything he has learned in the last three decades tells him it's hopeless.
It is worth indulging Gent his few whiffs, particularly the occasional tendency to ramble. For, turn the page, and his next swing is likely to be a beauty. (Morrow, $24)
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