My first comment has to be an apology/explanation. Apparently, my brain went through a convoluted series of mistakes in which I was supposed to review this book next Wednesday, not Tuesday. Don't ask me how this happened, but this is also how I confused my roommate by claiming my hair appointment tomorrow is on the 18th. 7 days before my next big trip, my brain is starved for intelligence.
Anyway, here we go! A little while ago, I was asked to review this book and knowing that it was a sports story, I gave it a shot. After all, I am a huge fan of Miracle at Fenway, 42, A League of Their Own, Fever Pitch... Basically, if you give me a good sports story, make it true and write it well, I'll be a puddle of emotions by the end of it.
Emphasis on "write it well." I can't stand flimsy characters that I can't relate to or care about. I have little patience for sports that expect me to know the playbook. I need a good ending.
So, with those yo-yoing standards, where do I fall on the subject of Sterling Bridge? Somewhere between Remember the Titans and 42. It is a fantastic period piece. I am not familiar with the area or the sport. I periodically stopped and looked up things like European national boundaries in the 1920's or the history of the text of the Pledge of Allegiance. (I found a factual error. He had the students recite the text as found in 1954.) I laughed in delight when he fictionalized Loren C. Dunn, the first president of the Boston Temple.
It was a multicultural story, both in the telling of life stories of Yugoslav and Polish and half a dozen other heritages in a small mining town, and a town segregated by religion. There are 42-esque scenarios of people getting a black eye for calling another person a wop, the locals complain about the ferriners (and it took me a while to figure out that it was a Utah pronunciation of foreigner) and a local priest confesses that he thinks the Mormons refer to his flock as the "Catholic impostors." But the binding force as in so many sports stories was the common goal.
Sterling Harris is clearly the ultimate hero of the book, but I found myself absolutely devastated when my favorite character died young. I won't watch BYU football because I find it boring, but I read the play-by-play of the state championships eagerly. I even possibly brought shame upon myself in my grandfather's eyes when I hoped that Tooele would win against his alma mater.
Do you have to be a football fan to like this? Absolutely not. Do you have to be religious? No, you will still appreciate the cultural heritage of people embracing their religion and the struggles of multiple characters with faith. Can you get excited over games that happened 80 years ago? Good grief, yes.
Buy it here