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Back in the Game

3.47  ·  Rating Details ·  30 Ratings  ·  18 Reviews
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 schoolteach
Hardcover, 206 pages
Published June 2012 by The Permanent Press (first published May 23rd 2012)
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May 17, 2012 Sheila rated it it was amazing
Stanley Mercer’s suddenly out of the game, lost his job, his girlfriend, his dreams, his home. And now he moves to small-town Legion where he meets the legion of children he’s going to teach. I’ve seen those school buses trundling on country lanes, but in Charles Holdefer’s Back in the Game I see them from the inside, teacher and all. I hear the kids shout cruelties and I see the sadness and hope, rebellion and glory in their eyes.

The name Legion evokes the Biblical story of demons cast out into
Jul 25, 2012 K. rated it it was amazing
Stanley Mercer might be called an accidental teacher. After fourteen years of pursuing his youthful dream of professional baseball through the U.S., Mexico and France, he returns to America, without success or his girlfriend, Delphine. Everything he owns is in the duffel bag he slings over his shoulder. His brother, Riley, a successful attorney, donates sympathy and a temporary bed, but Stanley knows he can’t stay. Even his widowed mother has moved on with a new hairstyle, sexy wardrobe and a co ...more
Brian Pinkerton
Mar 29, 2016 Brian Pinkerton rated it it was amazing
Many years ago, I took undergraduate classes of the Iowa Writers Workshop. Each week, we read and discussed each other’s stories. This was in the pre-email era, so the stories were distributed via paper copies stacked on a counter in a common area of the English Department. In addition to grabbing the stories for my own class, I would sneak copies of the graduate workshop stories. I was curious and wanted to read them. Among the graduate students, there was one in particular whose writing really ...more
Jul 19, 2012 Missy rated it really liked it

Great fun read!
Apr 15, 2013 Marvin rated it it was ok
Shelves: midwest
The narrator of this novel returns to the U.S. when his professional baseball career in Europe ends. Casting about for something to do, he ends up teaching elementary school for a year in a small town in rural central Iowa. In a straightforward narrative in a tone that suggests a lightweight book, it gradually becomes apparent that this is more serious than it appears at first; it's not a comic look at a small town of quirky characters. The author seems to assume that readers assume that rural I ...more
Jun 03, 2012 Emily rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Adults
Recommended to Emily by: First Reads/Giveaway
3.5 stars

First Reads

I won a copy in a giveaway

This was a fairly quick read, and I thought the book was good. I generally lean towards books with a little more depth, which cause you to have to think a little more.

It's a fairly simple story... (view spoiler)
Apr 05, 2013 Julia rated it it was ok
Meh. I finished reading the book only because it’s short. The main character is painfully unlikeable and so are almost all the other characters. Set in a small town in Iowa, there are meth heads and the last tenants in the main character’s house made and dealt meth. There’s a huge factory pig farm nearby, and some small farms left, but not many. There's no one and nothing to like here.

“I’d come to recognize in Amy a restless vanity that I’d always possessed myself. Maybe that was what we really
Jul 17, 2013 Paul rated it really liked it
This was the perfect type of book to read in the summer. The story was light and fun and a very quick read. It is the story of a man named Stanley Mercer would can seem to find his place in the 21st century, after riding his dream to be a pro baseball player as far as he could resorting to playing the game in France of all places. After losing that job and his girlfriend Stanley moves back to America and realizes he is not qualified to really do anything, ironically he winds up as a teacher in a ...more
May 04, 2012 Scottlmoritz rated it did not like it
Shelves: first-reads
I received a free copy of this book from one of the Goodreads giveaways and read the book very shortly after getting it. I found the writing to be witty and the picture of modern rural communities to be a bit eye-opening. The challenges being faced in rural communities with economic conditions, drug usage and the breakdown of marriages aren't different than those seen in urban environments despite the view many might have that rural life is idyllic. While entertaining, I don't intend to seek out ...more
May 02, 2012 Vivian rated it really liked it
A first reads winner.

Stanley Mercer had a career, baseball, a lovely European woman, and France. Then his world turns upside down and winds up in small town Iowa, of all places, as a school teacher. Romance ensues along the way. (A little smut wasn't necessary for me to enjoy but others might find it necessary.)

This book I devoured in a matter of hours. It was a fun read.
Carnegie-Stout Public Library
"This is not a bucolic, happily-ever after fairy tale set in the rustic Iowa of years past. This is 21st Century Iowa with smelly hog lots, bullying of special education students, meth labs and dysfunctional families."

Read Michelle's review on the library's blog:
Jun 12, 2012 Angie rated it liked it
Received as a First Reads giveaway.
Very quick read, small book. Being from Iowa myself, I could relate to some of the references. I enjoyed all the characters and the storyline, but would have preferred more of everything, to get more details on much of it. Overall a great book, and I will be looking for more of his work.
Chris Steinbach
Dec 23, 2012 Chris Steinbach rated it really liked it
It was a good, quick read. If I have two nits, they would be:
* Beginning was a bit slow. It took longer than I needed to know that Stan was a bit of a loser who was going to bounce back.
* I could never quite figure out where Legion, Iowa, was supposed to be.
Jun 08, 2012 Amanda rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2012, first-read
I received this book free as a Goodreads' First Read.

The book was fairly good read. I had some trouble getting into the book. I love books that keep you coming back or won't let you go and unfortunately this book did neither of these for me.
May 20, 2012 Jess rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
This was a quick read, but well written book. Thanks to Goodreads "First Reads" program for the opportunity to read this book for free as an advanced reader copy.
Dec 09, 2012 Kay rated it really liked it
this is the Back in the Game that I read -- not the same named book by Holly somebody.
Apr 26, 2012 Yy marked it as to-read
I won this book for free through Goodreads First Reads. Hope to read it soon. Thanks.
Phoenix Carvelli
May 11, 2012 Phoenix Carvelli marked it as to-read
Shelves: goodreads-com
Review copy won on on 4-26-12.
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Aug 27, 2016
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Charline David rated it liked it
May 04, 2015
C. marked it as to-read
Aug 14, 2016
Jennifer Fenn
Jennifer Fenn marked it as to-read
Jan 29, 2015
Thomas Jay
Thomas Jay rated it it was ok
Dec 24, 2014
M added it
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Dec 27, 2013
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Barrie Cameron rated it liked it
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Charles Holdefer is the author of four novels, including the forthcoming Back in the Game. His previous novel, The Contractor, was an American Booksellers' Association 'Book Sense Pick'.

His short fiction and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in the New England Review, North American Review, Los Angeles Review and Slice.

Charles grew up in Iowa and now teaches at the University of Poitiers, Fr
More about Charles Holdefer...

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