Tuesday, March 15, 2011

THE RINGER by Jenny Shank

A semi-finalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, Jenny Shank’s The Ringer is proof that such competitions really can bring the best of the best to the public eye. The story centers around lives affected by a police killing—a situation perhaps too easily read about in the paper. But these characters are no paper cut-outs, and when they’re used, by friends, the media, the department, as means to an end, they stand up and stand out. Jenny Shank’s writing makes the reader stand up and listen too, to a mother wondering what she could have done differently, and how she can best protect her kids; to a father wondering what really happened, and why memory and fact never quite coincide; to friends and relatives trying not to burn out or take over while offering support; and to children who play baseball.

The simple solutions of a child out to protect, or hit back, or be noticed, are no less complex in the end than those of adults who try to hide or comprehend. What happens next keeps happening, inexorably. And two families, from opposite sides of town, from different cultures, still meet on the same side of the field. Just as in life, even the cultures aren’t simple in The Ringer. Instead, they’re sympathetically portrayed, and filled with real division, history and complexity. There’s mystery and ethical conundrums in a tale as deep as human life. And the price of a life, or a life lost, in the end might be read in the “seasons to set [the] clock right.”

Jenny Shanks’ novel takes readers from the shock of unexpected violence, through the pain of unexpected loss, through betrayal and sorrow that follow both, and out onto the baseball field. Though I don’t know the game and probably never will, I know the players and feel excitement and fear for the team, and I want them to win. I want the people to win too, on both sides of the divide. And even if winning is complex and never complete, I’m taken to a place where I can stop and say okay; life does go on, and a different hope survives. The Ringer is a complex, compelling, convincing book, gritty and beautifully sympathetic, well-researched and well-plotted, and highly recommended as a really good read.

Disclosure: I was given a bound galley of this book by the publishers, The Permanent Press, in exchange for an honest review.
Product Details:
Hardback: 349 pages
Publisher: The Permanent Press (March 2011)
Language: English
ISBN: 978-1-57962-214-5

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