Book title: The Last Days of Summer [+]*
Author: Steve Kluger
Posted April 27, 2004

This novel is astonishingly good.

Set in the 1940s, the story is about the friendship between Charlie Banks, a fictional 3rd baseman for the Giants, and Joey Margolis, a 12-year old Jewish kid growing up in Brooklyn in the 1940s.

The two characters could not be more mis-matched: Joey's parents are recently divorced, he never sees his Dad, he lives with his Mom and his aunt, and he routinely gets beaten up for being Jewish. Charlie is a young ball player dating a movie star. Joey is super smart and can figure out almost anything. Charlie has very little book learning.

The story is told mainly through letters the two main characters exchange, but also through telegrams, newspaper articles, matchbook covers, box scores, transcripts of Joey's visits with a child psychologist, Joey's school report cards, and letters both main characters write to several secondary characters (including FDR, FDR's press secretary, and Eleanor).

I found the story charming, engaging, and terribly real. Kluger has really added something to the epistolary form. If I knew even the slightest thing about baseball, I think I would have enjoyed it even more. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and would highly recommend it.

However, there is a caveat. This is a book with an agenda. Kluger is active in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization, and the story is a thinly veiled argument for the benefits of BB/BS relationships. I am somewhat critical of BB/BS, so I have some reservations about the book's message. But I still enjoyed it.

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Caveat Lector: This website documents my own reading adventure. I am the only reviewer and book selection is guided by my own tastes and interests. You may or may not agree with my opinions -- that's what makes the world an interesting place.

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