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Bleachers

A book by John Grisham

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A great sports book because it is not all about sports

  • Nov 26, 2009
Rating:
+5
Most sports books involve a team that is struggling, there is conflict, both internal and external and then they manage to rise up and win "the big game at the end." Fortunately, and that is one of the most powerful features of this book, that formula is followed, but largely in reverse. There was a big game that the team managed to win, but that was years ago, yet it is still a powerful memory in the participants and the town where the team was from.
Neely Crenshaw was an outstanding quarterback for the Messina Spartans, he went on to play at a major college and was on his way to All-American status and perhaps even the Heisman Trophy when he suffered a career-ending knee injury in his sophomore season. Since then, he has bounced around, never enjoying any significant success; Neely was never able to psychologically recover from the drop from major sports idol to the minimally competent at life.
Legendary football coach Eddie Rake is dying of cancer, so many of his former players are coming back to Messina for the funeral. They are joining a town in deep mourning, under Eddie high school football was a local religion and Eddie was extremely successful. There were long winning streaks and multiple state championships and during that time Eddie was close to a semi-god in the eyes of many of the people. Known to many but tolerated because of his success, Eddie was a sadist in his treatment of the players; most of them hated him but could do nothing about his abusive policies. Finally, when a player collapses and dies during a workout, Eddie is fired by a powerful local political figure, an act which leads to deep divisions within the town.
The past is no longer the past as people begin to come together for the funeral, the former players gather together to share stories about their football careers and their lives. Eddie Rake is a constant topic, but in this case their big game is one that they relive. The divisions in the town, past relationships and regrets all come to the surface as everyone tries to come to terms with their successes and failures, both in and out of football. The funeral allows many to experience closure as they get a long-delayed grip on their feelings for the man that took them through hell in order to win football games.
This is one of the best sports books ever written because it is about sports intertwined with life. In the modern world, Eddie Rake would have been in prison for his actions and his success provides the perfect backdrop for the "what have you done since high school" story. There is something in this story for every person that graduates from high school and then ends up living a life that is completely unexpected.

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More Bleachers reviews
review by . December 15, 2010
If you're looking for a legal thriller, "Bleachers", neither legal nor thriller, is certainly not the drink for which you thirst! In a quiet, pastoral yet moving style of writing which he was to re-use to incredible effect in "The Last Juror", Grisham has treated his audience to a powerful, evocative novella that paints a portrait of the final years of the century in Messina, a small town in deep south USA.      The story opens, develops and closes with …
About the reviewer
Charles Ashbacher ()
Ranked #78
Charlie Ashbacher is a compulsive reader and writer about many subjects. His prime areas of expertise are in mathematics and computers where he has taught every course in the mathematics and computer … more
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Wiki

WithBleachersJohn Grisham departs again from the legal thriller to experiment with a character-driven tale of reunion, broken high school dreams, and missed chances. While the book falls short of the compelling storytelling that has made Grisham a bestselling author, it is nonetheless a diverting novella that succeeds as light fiction.

The story centers on the impending death of the Messina Spartans' football coach Eddie Rake. One of the most victorious coaches in high school football history, Rake is a man both loved and feared by his players and by a town that relishes his 13 state titles. The hero of the novel is Neely Crenshaw, a former Rake All-American whose NFL prospects ended abruptly after a cheap shot to the knees. Neely has returned home for the first time in years to join a nightly vigil for Rake at the Messina stadium. Having wandered through life with little focus since his college days, he struggles to reconcile his conflicted feelings towards his former coach, and he assays to rekindle love in the ex-girlfriend he abandoned long ago. For Messina and for Neely, the homecoming offers the prospect of building a life after Rake.

Physically a narrow book, Bleachers is a modest fiction in many respects. The emotional scope is akin to that of a short story, with a single-minded focus on explorations of nostalgia and regret. The dialogue, especially that of Neely's friend Paul Curry, is sometimes wooden as characters recall Messina history in paragraphs that...

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Details

ISBN-10: 0440242002
ISBN-13: 978-0440242000
Author: John Grisham
Publisher: Dell

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