When a new job takes Stanley Mercer to the small town of Legion, he expects a peaceful country life. Not shotgun pellets in his kitchen wallpaper, methamphetamine addicts knocking on his door, and the stench of hog lot lagoons. Falling in love with a married woman doesn't simplify matters, either.
Sex in secret leads to more than he'd bargained for. Stanley is a schoolteacher, and his lover, Amy Rawlings, is the mother of one of his pupils. Amy is strong-minded and defends what she wants, not just for herself and for her methamphetamine-addicted husband, but also for her child, Ginny. It is a delicate and volatile situation.
While trying to keep up appearances, Stanley also becomes involved in the struggles of Jim and Christine Snow, two children in the special education program at his school, and he befriends Nelson, an angry, divorced father. These people need him, and he needs them, in ways that will surprise and challenge Stanley.
Ultimately, Stanley Mercer must decide how much he will accommodate the everyday lies, the awkward truths, and the risks involved when respectable adults behave badly - including himself. Because the most vulnerable people in Legion are its children.
Humorous, poignant and uncompromising, Back in the Game
is the story of rural America in the era of globalization a place where the old clichés of country life no longer apply, but the yearnings for connection, for community, and for love still run strong.
"Holdefer, author of the superb psychodrama, "The Contractor" (2007), about an interrogator at a top-secret prison, turns here to something very different, writing with casual humor and a real feel for expressing emotion that makes the novel thoroughly readable and the characters immediately sympathetic. Without the darkness of, say, Russell Banks, but with the same keen sense of social satire, Holdefer gives us reason to rethink preconceptions of what a simple life looks like." -- Booklist
"This breezy, middle-of-the-road sports novel from Iowa native Holdefer...[is a] satisfying, at times funny novel describing a maturing pro athlete’s often bumpy transition from youthful dreams to mainstream American life." -- Publisher's Weekly
"Back in the Game packs a solid punch – it’s full of awkward and endearing humanity – with its straight-ahead style and character-driven plot. How some authors work so much believability and sympathy in a slim volume is completely beyond me. This book oddly shares an impressive heart, and a comfortable, reasonable approach to life that belies the desperation of some of its characters...I recommend this book to readers of literate fiction for its unique structure, for its finely-observed humanity, and for its big heart." -- Basso Profundo
grew up on a farm in south-central Iowa. His previous novel, The Contractor
, was an American Booksellers' Association "Book Sense Pick." Other novels include Nice
and Apology for Big Rod
. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and the Sorbonne, he teaches at the University of Poitiers, France. His website is www.charlesholdefer.com