A Book Review
Alan W. King
Powerful. Masterful. Engaging. Howie Thompson’s novel OverTime is his latest creation about a topic this veteran basketball coach and seasoned writer understands all too well. The author cleverly portrays his protagonist’s struggles as he faces and overcomes his past demons in an attempt to turn his life around. Thompson skillfully draws upon his many years of coaching, counseling and mediation experience. The author has an innate ability to put the reader there in the moment with skillfully rendered dialogues and narration that allows the emotions involved to rely on the pace of the narrative. This surreal and engaging novel is a dramatic sports story filled with conflict, deceit and misplaced trust. It is also a story about lost love and a world few of us are seldom privy to or perhaps have never imagined.
The plot unfolds in a small mid-western town high school gymnasium during the final seventeen seconds of a basketball game. Coach Jones directs his players in what he believes will be the winning play and culmination of his twenty-five year coaching career. It will also be his nineteenth straight state high school Boys’ class 4A title. Jones carefully lays-out a detailed play for his talented senior star and shooting guard, Trey ‘Shooter’ Parrish, who is now dripping with sweat. As the players gather around one last time, the aged and revered coach tells his team, "Men, you are the best group of players I have ever coached. Whatever happens now, I will never forget you. Thank you."
Trey Parrish becomes haunted by the memory of that fateful night at South Willow High School. As the story progresses, we soon learn how this one high school basketball game would become the turning point in this young boy’s life, and the role it would continue to play in the years ahead.
Parrish is troubled and preoccupied by the memories of his past, and the lingering guilt he feels about his older brother whose dreams have been shattered. He also struggles with resentment towards an overbearing father whose former success as a basketball player and high school coach continues to create much strife and unsettling feelings between them. Perhaps, it is not surprising that Trey feels he will never measure-up. For example, in this early scene we see the tension build between father and son: "Listen, Trey, for years while you played for Coach Jones, neither you nor he would listen to me about the TEAM CONCEPT. It was always about you and getting you the ball - you, you, you, and you."
The author skillfully brings the reader into Trey ‘Shooter’ Parrish’s world and creates multidimensional and believable characters as the plot moves along like a locomotive down a rickety old track -- only to be derailed when we least expect it. Thompson understands explicitly the need for pacing, and the rise and fall of various scenes are skillfully interwoven as he masterfully adjusts gears before turning or accelerating around the next corner.
Although I found Thompson’s plot convincing for the most part, there were a few scenes that just did not seem to hold true. For example, in one scene we see Trey going to his local bank to withdraw an extremely large amount of cash from his ATM. Still, the author’s novel is full of memorable, touching and gut wrenching scenes that will tug at most readers’ heart, and leave one with mixed feelings. Moreover, perhaps, the ending will surely raise many unanswerable questions in the reader’s mind too.
Trey ‘Shooter’ Parrish is fighting all the way and it is this resistance that gives this novel its special power. Whether you are a sports enthusiast or prefer to sit on the sidelines and watch, you will find Thompson’s novel a memorable and worthwhile read.
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