Friday, August 12, 2016

Review: "The Throwback Special" by Chris Bachelder

I would like to start out by saying that for overall unique and welcoming premises. I don’t think I will come across any more this year as good and as enjoyable as Chris Bachelder’s novel The Throwback Special. When I picked it up, I knew very little about it besides its intriguing premise, and while reading it, I discovered qualities I was not expecting that make the book more than what it is on the surface, which, I understand right now, will not appeal to everyone. The idea behind this novel is a sports reenactment, much like people, mostly men, dress up in Union and Confederate uniforms and act out famous battle sequences. Here what 21 men dress up, as are football players, and what they reenact is the famous 1985 game between the Washington Redskins and the New York Giants, where Lawrence Taylor tackled quarterback Joe Thiesmann and horrifically broke his leg. The clip is on YouTube, and if you have a strong stomach, feel free to check it out. If that premise draws you in, as it did me, despite not being a fan of football, you will find that the book has a lot to offer. Much like Joshua Ferris’ Then We Came to the End (the second book in this past month where I can make such a comparison), there are no central characters we meet over this long weekend, and some stand out more than others, like sad sack Robert, always early and begging friends for advice, depressed Adam, and ironically named Fat Michael are ones that stick out, although my favorite character is a pizza delivery guy who shows up only for one scene, and describes the story of how his relationship with his wife changed dramatically when he found out the dating website they met each other on was shut down for fraud. The finale isn’t as interesting as the rogue gallery of pseudo-players, and there is a little too much unsubtle machismo critique that wore thin (a lot of the men react poorly to their sons possible homosexuality), but this book is fun as can be, and that is coming from someone who still can’t comprehend how football is played.

Rating: 4/5

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