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American Past Time

4.6  ·  Rating details ·  47 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews
September 1953. Dancer Stonemason is three days away from his major league debut with the St. Louis Cardinals. With his wife and son cheering him on, he pitches the greatest game of his life. And then he loses everything.

Told against the backdrop of America’s postwar challenges from Little Rock to the Bay of Pigs to Viet Nam, AMERICAN PAST TIME is the story of what happen
Published April 19th 2014 by Hark! New Era Publishing (first published April 7th 2014)
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Claudia Putnam
Apr 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
I finished this book some weeks ago and wanted to wait to review it, to see if the story stayed with me. So many books I initially love I don't remember much about weeks or even days later.

This book held up. I've been thinking about why. It's not a hurtling read, nor is the writing so innovative your mind shatters. It's got baseball in it, and I hate baseball. However, the story is so clearly and simply told--the book doesn't get in the way of itself at all, and what you're left with is a clean
Aug 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
American Past Time is a sweeping novel that spans two decades in the life of one southern family. It begins in 1953 with the pivotal moment in the story—Dancer Stonemason, one step away from making the Major Leagues, is pitching in what should be his final minor league game—he’s due to pitch for the St. Louis Cardinals in three days. So, he should limit his amount of pitches and not stay in the game too long, and save himself for the big club. Of course, fate has a twisted sense of humor: Dancer ...more
Apr 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bookclub
Len Joy writes with great compassion for his characters. As they struggle to care for each other, Dancer, Dede, Clayton, and Jimmy emerge as fully realized individuals trying to make sense of their imperfect lives. It's sometimes difficult to read about the choices they make that drive them deeper into brokenness, but throughout the struggle there is a thread of resilience that drives the story forward and gives the characters what they need to keep striving toward a life worth living. Joy sets ...more
Jul 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: highlyrecommend
Life is a series of choices, a series of dreams, each impacting the dynamics of relationships in complex ways.

Set in the 1950s--1970s, this historical novel about a complicated family impacted by the father’s decisions and dreams is fast paced, clearly written and quite relevant. Bits of history are ambient reminders of what era the reader has been submerged into. The civil rights movement, memorable baseball names and moments, pop culture of the 1960s, Vietnam war. Len gets under the skin of h
Jun 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I really liked this book. I didn't want the story to end! I was a member of the Minnesota Twins player Gary Gaetti fanclub ("Dr. Crank") when I lived in Wisconsin in the early 1980's, and I played APBA ball, too, but I never knew the descriptions of what a pitcher does or feels until reading this book.

This was a family of the 1950's in small-town America. I live in the same small town the author grew up in and went to high school with him. His sister Chris and I were good friends K-12. That know
Feb 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: friendsbooks
This is a delightful read, flowing and intriguing. The theme of baseball is taken to illustrate what, for me, is the real theme: people from a humble origins, their expectations from life, their relationships and struggles. The story introduces several generations in the mid-twentieth , overviewing the way the USA was during this years, economically and culturally, beyond the way individuals felt them (or survived them). The story telling is well-handled, opening the story toward a change as an ...more
Sep 13, 2014 added it
I recently blurbed this book, to wit:

"Len Joy has an eye for the humble, utterly convincing details of family life: the look, feel, taste, and smell of work and school, meals and sport. This is mid-twentieth-century America seen neither through the gauze of nostalgia nor with easy cynicism but rather with a clear-eyed tenderness. Readers will care deeply, as I did, about the Stonemasons’s inextricable triumphs and failures."
Constance Groh
Jun 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
American Past Time chronicles the struggles and triumphs of the Stonemason family, a working class Missouri couple and their two sons, over a 20-year period beginning in 1953 and ending shortly after their eldest son returns from Viet Nam.

As the story begins, Dancer Stonemason is a young minor league baseball player about to pitch a potentially final game for his team before being called up to the major leagues – realizing his life’s dream. Not knowing the news of the promotion that awaits him,
Joseph Ferguson
Dec 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Dancer Stonemason, a pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals’ minor league Rolla Rebels, is three days from attaining his major league dreams. After giving his all to pitch a perfect game for the Rebels, however, his trip to the majors is postponed, life gets in the way, and he falls into a downward spiral.
Beautifully crafted from double entendre title to closing sentence, Joy’s first novel is the study of an unforgettable American family through good times and bad. Darkly nostalgic, the action is
Kristiana Kahakauwila
Jun 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
Here is a "baseball novel" that transcends sport and offers an in-depth portrait of a family and an era.

The novel begins in Dancer Stonemason's perspective but later moves to his wife's and son's perspectives and the effect allows their perceptions and understandings to bump against each other, complicating ideas of truth and love. The scenes are well-drawn and well-edited, filled with dialogue that reads like spoken word (a feat!) and characters who are as complex as real people, with the same
Jun 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
American Past Time starts out as a book about baseball, but is really a family's journey through civil rights, the turbulent 60s and the Viet Nam War. Dancer Stonemason is a pitcher on a minor league team on his way to the majors. He, then pitches a perfect game in the minor leagues and from the that day on, his life is never the same. Dancer and his wife Dede, go through many ups and downs. His older son, Clayton, has problems forgiving his father and his brother Jimmy turns out to be a born sa ...more
Aug 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I have an "official" and more comprehensive review of Len Joy's debut novel "American Past Time," and it will be out soon, but in the meantime, I want to make sure that I say publicly how much I like this novel. Set against the tensions of the mid-twentieth century of Jim Crow v. Civil Rights, this story of one family mid-America is a novel to be embraced. The author gives each parent and both boys chapters in which the reader can see through the eyes of each character. Really enjoyed this novel ...more
Sep 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not normally one to pick up novels having baseball as a center, being a non-sporting and lazy kind of man, but Len Joy hooked me on this one. It helped that this book has solid and interesting characters, a gripping storyline, and a plainspoken earthiness to it. Even I can be interested in baseball when all that is there. More than that though, baseball is only the context. Baseball is just the framework for conveying a much more universal insight into the good way to live our lives. We migh ...more
Bonnie ZoBell
Jun 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A very pleasurable read, not really about baseball but about family and the highs and lows that come from living with one. Len Joy does an excellent job with characterization. I especially love the two sons, Clayton and Jimmy. Clayton is just like Dancer, an athlete and stubborn, and is deeply angry with his father because of things that happen in the book that I'm not going to tell you. Jimmy, a bit pudgy, easy-going, and not an athlete at all is funny, the family caretaker, and a great little ...more
Apr 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing

I adored this book. The family dynamic was wonderful and complex and heartbreaking. The author created a compelling family narrative mixed in with a chaotic period of history. I love books that draw in larger issues into the personal relationships of those being effected.

This book has made the cut of books I will recommend to my dad - which so far is about two - including this one. Can't say enough good things!!
Jun 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
In his debut novel, American Past Time, author Len Joy weaves a timeless classic that transports the reader back in time with a wonderful story that interweaves a changing family dynamic with the favorite American pastime of baseball and iconic historical events that span the decades of the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s.

American Past Time is a compelling story about family, love, youth, the pursuit of dreams, disappointments, struggles, triumphs, learning to survive, move forward, and finding one
Brandon Kopceuch
Sep 21, 2016 rated it liked it
An easy and enjoyable read, but was expecting something at the end.
Julian Froment
Jun 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed-books
I really enjoyed this book. I thought that it was extremely well written and I found the story fascinating.

For me, it was the story of a chance at future success squandered, or rather, certainly in the eyes of the protagonist, traded, for the sake of the perfect game.

The story had a good pace to it, and I liked how each part concentrated on the viewpoint of different members of the family. I enjoyed how it was possible to relate to these differing standpoints and opinions, yet still understand w
Diane Coto
Jun 19, 2014 rated it liked it
To a pitcher, what is a perfect game worth? Well, Dancer Stonemason got one and boy did it feel great! His wife, Dede, and their four year old son, Clayton, were cheering him on. But the perfect game may have just cost him everything that is dear to him. He wasn’t able to make his major league debut three days later because he’d severely blistered his thumb during the perfect game and couldn’t pitch. Three years later, he was still hopeful of a chance in the major league but with a persistent so ...more
Ania Vesenny
Jun 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I finally finished American Past Time, by Len Joy. Since I had the privilege of reading parts of this novel in their earlier drafts, reading the final version was a special treat. The writing and the unique voice drew me in from the first page, all over again. I wanted to take my time.

Small town, working class America of the 1950s and 1970s--I was there, smelled the air, passed by Dancer and Dede on my way to a corner grocery store, cheered for Dancer and his "perfect game." Watched the world ch
May 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I am not a baseball fan. Yes, a heresy I know. But the sports I grew up with in Europe were soccer and hockey, and baseball never appeared on my radar, even into adulthood. That said, Len Joy’s book is not really about baseball, except on a surface level. It is about family, about dreaming, about growing up, about what is important in life. It is possible to have hope, even if life throws you a knuckleball or if you get thrown out sliding home. “Let the ball come to you.” What a great phrase, ap ...more
Kevin Clark
May 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: A wide audience
A fast-moving, lyrical story of broken dreams, family struggles, redemption and forgiveness - Len Joy has a real success on his hands with American Past Time. I was drawn in deeply to each member of the Stonemason family as Joy brings us 20 years through the 50's, 60's and 70's. Long forgotten memories of my own childhood streamed in (I could feel myself back at a sleepover in my friend's basement as we watched the first moonwalk), at times I wanted to go back and fix my mistakes, but I ended wi ...more
Jun 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Len Joy's American Past Time is a wonderful debut. Its protagonist, Dancer Stonemason, is a lifelong Midwesterner trying to live out his dreams as a pitcher in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. But with a growing family and an arm that no longer cooperates, plans change.

Told against the backdrop of the "idyllic" 50's and "turbulent" 60's, Joy's compelling prose and exceptional characters take the reader through an intriguing period in American history.
Kendra Witter
May 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Dancer Stonemason had a hard childhood but discovered he could play baseball and play it well. Like many before him, he had high hopes for a professional career. As his hopes are about to come true an honorable choice sends Dancer down a spiral of defeat which will effect his life and all those who love him.
May 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed reading this book. Great family dynamics and a wonderful exploration of how relationships, hopes, and dreams change over the course of a lifetime. Dancer Stonemason and his family felt very real to me. I'm looking forward to the next book by Len Joy.
Ann Heitland
Mar 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction-general
Characters in this novel are extremely well-developed. I came away feeling like I really knew these people.
rated it really liked it
Jul 21, 2017
Simon Manton
rated it really liked it
May 10, 2017
rated it it was ok
Jan 03, 2016
Len Joy
May 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
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Len Joy’s first novel “American Past Time” was released April 19, 2014 with Hark! New Era Publishing.

He is the author of two short fiction collections, “Casualties” and “Survivors.” His work has appeared in FWRICTION: Review, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Johnny America, Specter Magazine, Washington Pastime, Hobart, Annalemma and Pindeldyboz.

Joy grew up in the Finger Lakes region of we
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