cover image Gold Dust

Gold Dust

Chris Lynch. HarperCollins Publishers, $15.99 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-06-028174-8

Lynch's (Gypsy Davey; Slot Machine) latest novel is set in 1975 Boston, when the Gold Dust Twins, Fred Lynn and Jim Rice, play for the Red Sox and school bussing has begun. Seventh-grade narrator Richard Riley Moncreif sees the world in terms of the snap, crackle and pop sounds of the baseball hitting his Adirondack. That is, until Napoleon Charlie Ellis arrives at his Catholic school from the Dominican Republic and opens Richard's eyes to another set of rules on the playing field. Lynch's best passages concern Richard's passion for the game, as when he describes Fred Lynn's stroke (""Some people see what I'm talking about in ballet or in the shapes of sculpture . I see it in a flawless, speedy and powerful swing of a baseball bat in pursuit of a ball""). But the chapters do not flow easily between the almost poetic baseball scenes to the building of Richard and Napoleon's rocky friendship. The author introduces several provocative situations that go unexplored, such as Napoleon's offhand comment about his professor/poet father (""We function in our own worlds, even though we live in essentially the same place"") and the tension that results from Napoleon being black and more affluent than Richard's white working-class family. But baseball fans will not be disappointed; Lynch's acute understanding of the way a person's passion colors his view of the world results in a credible, sympathetic protagonist, and the novel's denouement is as honest as it is heartbreaking. Ages 10-up. (Aug.)