Passing Game

Christopher Brookhouse, Author
Christopher Brookhouse, Author Sunapee Editions $19.95 (160p) ISBN 978-0-9665798-2-6
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Race and friendship in 1940s New England fuel a terse tale of courage by a poet and novelist long relegated to a musty, literary no-man's-land. Critically acclaimed but little read, Brookhouse's novels include Running Out and Dear Otto. His latest, artful but dated, is in danger of suffering the same fate. Philip Pratt and Presley Alston meet at Harvard and become comrades, first on the football field and then on the battlefields of France during WWII. Philip, from a poor Southern family, is attending the Ivy League school on scholarship. Presley's pedigree runs deep and long; he is a poster boy for the ""Gold Coast"" crowd. Returning to Cambridge after the war, the two men readjust to life, with Yale, rather than Adolf Hitler, as their chief enemy. But there is more than one crucial ""passing game"" being played in Harvard Yard. Philip's mother is black in an era deeply divided by class and race, where ""one drop of Negro blood"" changes everything. Philip is ""passing"" as white, living in constant fear that he will be discovered and denied the life he wants so desperately. Anachronistic in its treatment of race, the novel sidesteps the techniques of contemporary literary storytelling, too, yet there is a kind of innocence in the clarity of each heroic figure's dilemma. This straightforward style might be perceived as lacking in complexity, but Brookhouse's stern command of an assured, clean prose style indicates there is more to his story than meets the eye. (Oct.)
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