Sequels offer readers comfort as they eagerly return to stories about characters and settings that they connected to previously. Unfortunately sequels...moreSequels offer readers comfort as they eagerly return to stories about characters and settings that they connected to previously. Unfortunately sequels usually don't measure up, leaving the reader longing for the aspects that made them fall in love with the original. This however is not the case with "Sophomore Campaign", the compelling follow-up novel to Frank Nappi's `The Legend of Mickey Tussler". Nappi manages to maintain all of the qualities that made "Tussler" a must-read and proves that his talent is even deeper than he initially revealed.
"Sophomore Campaign" grapples with many harsh realities - extreme racism, hatred, disappointment, and loss - but Nappi handles each of these with a certain lyricism and eloquence that resonates. Baseball serves as the vehicle through which these realities emerge and are explored. Nappi once again proves himself to be a fan and student of the sport; his baseball scenes capture the energy and the intricate nuances that are distinctly baseball.
Most of the original characters that sprung to life in the first book return here and Nappi delicately peels back their layers to expose their insecurities and their fears; vulnerabilities that make his characters relatable. New here is Lester Sledge, and African American player who joins the Brewers, bringing with him a torrent of cruelty and hate. The fervor caused by Lester's arrival serves as an additional challenge for Mickey who was already reticent to return to the mound after the violence that ended the previous season. While Lester and Mickey seem to traverse disparate worlds, their mutual struggle for acceptance solidifies their bond. Murphy, is once again seduced by the national pastime and his ambition leaves him teetering on a self-destructive path. However, his good nature, kind heart, and honesty keep him grounded and his glory comes from who is he and where he has been rather than where he is going. This book, like the first is unpredictable and honest. Nappi's books are never forced or contrived; you can easily surrender to his humanistic plots with complete plausibility.
While Nappi's plot is well-crafted and engages from start to finish, it continues to be his ability to set the scene that sets him apart. His ability to craft a symphonic prose is indisputable. Every scene dramatically emerges from the pages in full Technicolor splendor because of the stirring vivid prose of a writer who understands that storytelling is an art form. "The evanescence of September twilight faded into a deep night. The entire area surrounding Borchert Field lay shrouded in darkness save for the brilliant glow of a silver moon that shone through the weightless clouds hovering dreamily above the dozing hamlet..." Part of Nappi's appeal as a writer is his conveyance of milieu with equal parts reality and transcendence.
"Sophomore Campaign" is worth reading, worth sharing, and worth talking about. I will sit with reverential impatience waiting for Nappi to regal us with the third installment of this series. I have no doubt his next book will be as masterful and as intoxicating. In the meantime, I will revisit "Sophomore Campaign" as I am sure that there is more to discover nestled between the pages of Nappi's remarkable book. (less)