3 out of 4 stars
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The Boys of Summers Run by James Cotton is a coming-of-age novel with a Little League Baseball theme. After his father is killed in the Gulf War, 12-year-old Claude Kinkade goes with his mother to live on his paternal family’s farm in rural Pennsylvania. Shadeland is a historical farm in the Summers Run community that has been in his father’s family for generations. It’s a magical place for Claude, who finds comfort and stability there among his father’s relatives. He quickly becomes close with his father’s cousin Nathe (note: Nathe is not a typo and is a nickname for Nathean), who returns to Summers Run after an acting career. The two bond even further when Nathe coaches Claude’s Little League team. Claude looks up to Nathe as a father figure and mentor.
In the meantime, Claude’s mother moves to Las Vegas to start a singing career with the help of her wealthy boyfriend. She intends to bring Claude out there once she gets settled. Claude hopes he can stay in Summers Run indefinitely and even wishes his mother would fall in love with Nathe.
This book is a work of fiction, yet reads like a memoir. Claude tells his story as an adult looking back on his Little League team’s 1992-93 season. This isn’t a book you should race through, as you might with a thriller; you should savor every sentence. The writing is lovely and lyrical. I enjoyed reading the book as much for the author’s use of language as for the storyline itself. The story is quite engaging and Claude is a likeable main character. All of the characters are vividly written, particularly Claude’s friend Tim, who is deaf and an orphan.
The dialogue is easy to understand, even with the heavy use of rural Pennsylvania dialect. I usually find the use of a dialect distracting, although it was natural and flowing in this case. I felt like I knew these people well and became used to their manner of speaking. There is one glaring typo in the book that I must mention; in Chapter 45, the year 1963 should be 1993. I hesitated mentioning this error, as the book appears to be otherwise and refreshingly free of grammatical errors. Still, I thought the author could correct this error in subsequent editions.
One gripe I had with this book is the meandering plot. I am normally a fast reader, but this book took me an unusually long time to finish. Some readers may not mind this, as some of the side stories and passages are absolute gems. I just wish the plot could have been more cohesive. There are long sections about minor characters and the plot would veer off course for a bit.
I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. I wish I could have given the book 3.5 stars. The story will tug at your heartstrings. This book would appeal to anyone who likes to read wholesome stories about country life and boys growing up. Actually, I would recommend this book to anyone who appreciates good writing.
The Boys of Summers Run
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