cover image The All-American

The All-American

Susie Finkbeiner. Revell, $16.99 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-0-800-73936-2

Finkbeiner (The Nature of Small Birds) tracks the quotidian lives of two sisters living in early 1950s suburban Detroit in this earnest but flawed outing. Bertha and Flossie Harding come from a seemingly quintessential American family: their older brother, Chip, lives nearby with his young wife; their English-born mother, Louisa, is now a proud, churchgoing American citizen; and their father, William, is a novelist. The girls also lead relatively humdrum lives: 16-year-old Bertha loves baseball and dreams of joining the local girls’ team, while bookworm Flossie’s being bullied at school. But when a neighbor accuses William of being a Communist, the girls’ social lives fall apart. The ostracization and nastiness from neighbors and former friends grow so extreme that the Hardings flee to the small town of Bear Run, Mich., to live with William’s brother. While there, the family attempts to shake off the accusations as Bertha pursues her baseball dreams and Flossie tries to make friends—but as things begin to look up, an accident unseats the girls’ lives and leaves the family unsure if they’ll recover. Finkbeiner probes some fascinating themes of the era, from McCarthyism to regressive gender roles, but a somewhat meandering plot progression and subpar character development can make things feel underbaked. This promising entry never quite hits its stride. (July)