cover image Godwin


Joseph O‘Neill. Pantheon, $28 (288p) ISBN 978-0-593-70132-4

A Pittsburgh grant writer forays into the world of international soccer in the exciting and incisive latest from O’Neill (Netherland). Mark Wolfe belongs to a co-op of freelance technical writers called the Group. After a client complains about his condescending attitude, the co-op’s cofounder, Lakesha Williams, suspends Mark’s dues payments for two weeks so he can take time to get his head together. His half brother Geoff, a British sports agent, enlists his aid in tracking down a teenage soccer player, known only as Godwin, whose skills impressed Geoff in an online video. Mark leaves his wife and child for England, then France, where he reluctantly partners with an unsavory scout named Jean-Luc Lefebvre, who travels to Benin on their behalf in search of Godwin. With Mark heading back home, O’Neill turns to Lefebvre’s adventures in Benin, which involve potholes, mosquitoes, and an endangered species of dog. It would be a spoiler to reveal what Mark learns over the course of his and Lefebvre’s attempt to recruit Godwin, or how the backroom dealings at the Group impact him and Lakesha. As O’Neill artfully pairs the thrill of the hunt for Godwin with the complex politics of cooperative work, the driving force that connects the twinned narratives is the corruptive power of capitalism. This has all the velocity and swerve of an unstoppable free kick. (June)