cover image The Powers

The Powers

Valerie Sayers. TriQuarterly/Northwestern Univ., $24.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-8101-5229-8

Set in the summer of 1941 during Joe DiMaggio’s historic 56-game hitting streak, Sayers’s stylish baseball novel goes behind the scenes and follows Joltin’ Joe’s personally tortuous season, exacerbated by his shrill, pregnant wife and the specter of the military draft on the eve of WWII. Against this historic backdrop, Sayers traces the tight relationship of 18-year-old friends Agnes O’Leary, Joe D’Ambrosio, and Bernie Keller. O’Leary meets the famed Walker Evans on the subway, sparking her interest in working as a photographer. The Italian-blooded D’Ambrosio, taking a pacifist stance, works for the social activist Dorothy Day and hatches a scheme to lead the war refugees out of Mexico into the safety of the U.S. The German-blooded Keller vies with D’Ambrosio for O’Leary’s affections while her “tyrannical” grandmother Babe, an avid baseball fan, believes she possesses “the powers” to keep DiMaggio’s hitting streak alive and the Yankees winning games. All the while, DiMaggio’s goofy friend, roommate, and chauffer, Lefty Gomez, who is also a pitcher, does everything for Joltin’ Joe, from buying comic books to procuring sexual favors. In her first novel since 1996, Sayers (Brain Fever) captures the momentous 1941 baseball season with enough nuanced acumen and sophistication to lift her novel close to those of Malamud and Kinsella. (Apr.)