How All This Started

Pete Fromm, Author Picador USA $23 (305p) ISBN 978-0-312-20933-9
The award-winning author of nonfiction (Indian Creek Chronicle, etc.) and several story collections (Dry Rain, etc.), Fromm delivers a quiet but gripping debut whose themes are family, baseball and two kinds of talent--frustrated and flourishing. As the novel opens, 15-year-old Austin Scheer waits out the kind of wind storm that chills and carries rain to the west Texas desert where he and his family live. But this wind doesn't bring rain, it brings home Austin's wild older sister Abilene, who had disappeared for a week. Austin and Abilene, named for the cities where they were conceived, are uncommonly close and share the dream of becoming pitchers. For 20-year-old Abilene, that dream has already died: she's a girl and a difficult girl at that--too quick, sassy and confident. Abilene isn't about to let her brother miss his chance, and once she recovers from her manic spree and the depression that follows, she spends her evenings training Austin. Though her devotion to her brother is extravagant, her training tactics are abusive, calling into question her real motive. It becomes increasingly clear that Abilene's mood swings are dangerous and that, under her influence, Austin may lose his chance for any career in baseball. Fromm has limited his range for this novel, inscribing only the siblings and their parents, Clay and Ruby, in a few Texas desert locales. He focuses instead on the nuances of Austin and Abilene's relationship, as well as the passion and poetry of pitching. Fromm's portrayal of the elder Scheers is especially satisfying. At first, they appear as sad as their children believe they are, hopeless people who spend their days retelling the story of ""how all this started."" As the novel progresses, the younger Scheers' understanding of their parents deepens, and the children seem truly to mature. Baseball lovers will want to read this book, but so will anyone who has loved a difficult sibling. Author tour. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/04/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
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