Longing. I presume that sometime in the deep darkness of our linguistic past that the word measured the degree of difference between where one is, and where one wants to be. Implied also is desire; yearning, and the emotions that accompany them, good or bad. Longing to be a musician, an astronaut, or for one who loves you may be joyful. Alternatively, longing for a lost opportunity, or an old lover no longer interested in you, woeful.
Charles Holdefer’s book Back in the Game, is a book about longing. It’s also a book about the intricacy of human relationships, and their fragility. It’s also a book about globalization, and small town Iowa life. And pork. Stanley Mercer longed for a career in the big leagues of baseball, but didn’t quite make it. From A ball through Triple A, he took detours through Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and eventually a defunct European League where he lost his job in France when the team owner lost interest in the game. Stanley also lost his girlfriend Delphine somewhere along the way. Probably long before he knew it.
Thanks to a little “white lie” and to his brother Riley, a well-off fellow in a marshmallow existence, Stanley finds himself in a teaching position in a high school in a dying town called Legion. Big Ag is getting bigger and bigger, and bottom line is that as farms get bigger, many rural towns die.
One professional life in tatters, and another soon to be, Stanley finds unrequited love and oddly kindred souls on the margins of existence. That, or at the center of it.
Lovingly crafted, and written from the unique perspective of an Iowan, an insider who knows our culture yet has a cosmopolitan eye for the big picture, this is a delightful and challenging perspective of a uniquely modern midwestern life, remarkably close to our own.
Reviewed by Robert Leonard
Charles Holdefer is a native of Knoxville, Iowa, and currently lives in Brussels with his family, although he returns to Iowa regularly to teach at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. He will be here at The Next Chapter on Thursday evening, July 19th, 2012, at 5:30, to discuss Back in the Game, writing, and life, and to sign copies of his book.