Friday, June 24, 2016

Book review - The Distance to Home

Title: The Distance to Home
Author: Jenn Bishop
Genre: realistic fiction
Similar books: Dear Opl by Shelley Sackier
                     The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
lovely and heartbreaking

Summary(provided by publisher): For fans of Lynda Mullaly Hunt and Rita Williams-Garcia, Jenn Bishop's heartwarming debut is a celebration of sisterhood and summertime, and of finding the courage to get back in the game.
Last summer, Quinnen was the star pitcher of her baseball team, the Panthers. They were headed for the championship, and her loudest supporter at every game was her best friend and older sister, Haley.
This summer, everything is different. Haley's death, at the end of last summer, has left Quinnen and her parents reeling. Without Haley in the stands, Quinnen doesn't want to play baseball. It seems like nothing can fill the Haley-sized hole in her world. The one glimmer of happiness comes from the Bandits, the local minor-league baseball team. For the first time, Quinnen and her family are hosting one of the players for the season. Without Haley, Quinnen's not sure it will be any fun, but soon she befriends a few players. With their help, can she make peace with the past and return to the pitcher's mound?

My opinion: If you're looking for a simple, warm-hearted sports story, this is not your book. Don't get me wrong: baseball plays a major role in the plot and the message is an affirming one. This is just more of an emotional wringer than most sports books. 
To my way of thinking, books about grief for the younger set must be carefully done to avoid becoming trite and minimizing the emotions of the target audience. This is one such careful portrayal. The best word I can think of for it is authentic. Quinnen's portrayal is very believable. She's confused by the changes in her older sister prior to her death, wants life to be as simple as it has always been.
While the major portion of the plot focuses on working through grief, baseball is a strong presence. Secondary messages include being a team player, focusing on the good of your team instead of yourself, and not judging others too quickly. 
What this all adds up to is a book that can be read and enjoyed both by fans of emotional journeys and of sports stories.

More information: The Distance to Home releases June 28.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

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