Perfect Silence

Jeff Hutton, Author Breakaway Books $23 (320p) ISBN 978-1-891369-20-9
Hutton's amateurish but entertaining debut combines three of America's favorite topics. It starts as a historical tale about baseball, becomes a novel of the Civil War and ends up as an unlikely love story. Young Joseph Tyler spends the first three years of the War Between the States working with his father on their small Virginia farm. His only pastime there is a newly invented game called ""Base,"" which his best friend Terence brought home from the North. Then the boys impetuously join John Pegram's Confederate brigade; in the confusing Battle of the Wilderness, Joseph is wounded and left for dead. Waking up in the burning woods, he discovers a mortally wounded Union soldier, in whose pocket is a letter to his sweetheart, Sarah Kingsley, of Rocker Falls, N.Y. Seized as a prisoner of war, Joseph is shipped off to prison in Elmira, N.Y., where he ingeniously uses his ""base ball"" expertise to escape. After the war is over, Joseph joins the Terryville (N.Y.) Niners, where he becomes the star player called ""Rebel Joe."" Just down the river from Terryville is Rocker Falls: what will happen when Joseph finds Sarah there? Readers of Frazier's Cold Mountain may see in it one inspiration for Hutton's plot and for his sometimes out-of-control prose. History buffs may admire Hutton's research, but they might also wince at errors: 1860s ballplayers (for example) didn't use gloves and didn't compute batting averages. If Hutton's prose and scholarship sometimes founder, his storytelling finally succeeds, producing delights for baseball and history fans, as well as a tender story of self-discovery. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/04/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-1-891369-34-6
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