4 out of 4 stars
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Author June Gillam concludes her newest Hillary Broome novel with this prophetic statement from Hillary, "I think we'll be surprised at how much we all find in 2020." She was correct. House of Hoops is set in Sacramento, California, in 2019. There are references to actual events and people, but the majority of the content is fiction. The book is dedicated to Gianna Bryant who died in January 2020. She and her legendary father, Kobe, are mentioned several times, but the accident that killed them both has not happened yet. References to mass shootings, protests, and Black Lives Matter are also included in this suspenseful story about the path to progress in a city environment.
The plot revolves around two protagonists who had an unpleasant incident in the past that is affecting their current situation. One of them is trying to build a community center; the other one is trying to stop the construction. The characters in this novel symbolize different social problems. Hillary, a strong woman, is determined to balance a career and a family. She has a supportive husband and a pre-teen daughter who echoes her mother's insecurities. Charlie, the second protagonist, is distraught over the gentrificaiton of his neighborhood. His concern has been hastened by a terminal illness diagnosis and his desire to leave a legacy before he dies. Readers see these individuals evolve and experience a catharsis. Stacy, another key character, remains a constant guiding force and is my favorite cast member in this social drama.
The chapters flow smoothly, and the transitions between the two storylines are easy to follow. The characters are introduced effectively, and it is not difficult to keep up with all the relationships. Gillam employs figurative language. "Cancer fingers destroying brain cells like developers destroying neighborhoods..." is a simile that connects Charlie's illness with his mission. Gillam also uses personification. Here it is used to suggest impending doom for Hillary: "...her navy peacoat bare protection against dark clouds starting to let go of their rain." Passages such as these were pleasant, not overwhelming, and created a relaxed reading experience. My only criticism with the writing style was the pace. It was very slow in the beginning and rushed in the end.
The novel consists of 54 chapters broken into three parts. At the beginning of each chapter, there is a quote. Some of these lines were from a satirical dictionary attributed to Ambrose Bierce, an ancestor of the protagonist Charlie. The other quotes were from a wide variety of authors, educators, and performers. I looked forward to these passages and was pleased when I recognized the source. Often the names were unfamiliar, and I was inspired to research them. This was my favorite part of reading the book. I was introduced to a variety of professors, environmentalists and social workers. This exercise proved to be both entertaining and educational. I applaud the author for her diligence in providing the perfect quote for each chapter.
House of Hoops is the fourth book in the Hillary Broome series. I have not read the earlier books but had no difficulty reading the last one first. The editing was almost flawless, and the entertainment value was high, so I am rating this 4 out of 4 stars. Because there is little profanity and no erotic content, I can recommend this to all readers. Since the subject of basketball is so prominent, I think it would be enjoyed by those interested in that sport. The book also covers the tumultuous road to adulthood for adolescent girls; this should be of interest to both mothers and daughters. I look forward to reading books one, two, and three.
House of Hoops
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