Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Box Socials

by W.P. Kinsella
1991, 222 pages

Box Socials is the story of how Truckbox Al McClintock got his chance at fame when he got to play against the Major League All Stars in Renfrew Park in Edmonton. Though that's the thread that holds the entire book together, what it's really about is life in small town Alberta in the 1940s. For me the book was fun, in part, because I grew up in Alberta and a lot of the places referred to in the story are places I know, though I think at least a few are made up.

If you don't come from Alberta, the book is still entertaining, for though it's set in a specific place it's really about any small and close knit community. That could be your home town, or possibly the church community you're part of. The characters you meet in this book have parallels in any community. There's the gossips, the jokesters, the steady folks who are always there to help, and the wise and understanding sorts. Perhaps you'll recognize some of the characters in the book, but it's more likely that you'll discover yourself in here, for we're all made up of parts of the better and worse people that we meet in this tale.

The story is told in a folksy sort of way which is a bit repetitious. This gives it a flavor like you might have if you were sitting out on your front porch and being told the story by one of the community old timers. It's a tale that really should be read aloud even if that's only done in your head.

Though the story is told in the first person through the eyes of Jamie O'Day, a boy of about 10 or 11, there are some scenes described that are a bit crude. There's few inappropriate words, because the narrator doesn't always know what he's witnessing and consequently describes it using euphemisms, but you will know what he's talking about. The descriptions are not graphic and are only a sentence or so. These are things that you will recognize in your community, too, and the hypocrisy that's often associated with them. However, you'll need to decide if that's something you want in your fiction.

Overall it's a well told story about life in a small community. Though it's set in the 1940s the characters could fit in well in most communities today. It's touching, warm, and funny. It's a surprisingly good book.

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