Thursday, March 07, 2013

Chin Music

Baseball fans are a sentimental lot.  When it comes to our game, we believe in fairy tales and happy endings.  We root for the underdog, and what’s more, we expect him to win more times than not.  We love baseball so much that we sometimes stop to watch little league games randomly spotted while driving someplace else.  And we instinctively recognize likeminded souls and will spend whole games talking baseball with the new friends who just happen to sit down beside or in front of us.  Lee Edelstein, author of Chin Music, is obviously a member of the club. 

Chin Music, Edelstein’s debut novel, is one of those YA novels that will be enjoyed as much by adults as by its YA readers.  Simply put, it is a wonderful baseball fairy tale, and its Spring Training publication date could not be more perfect.  Baseball fans, already anticipating the start of the new season, love to get their hands on this kind of thing about now.

The story begins during 1926 Spring Training in St. Petersburg, Florida.  Babe Ruth and the rest of the New York Yankees are there to prepare themselves for the new season.  But Babe Ruth, being the Babe, has more on his mind than physical training - and he takes a particular shine to Zel, the lady barber who cuts his hair every week.  Now, more than eight decades later, Babe Ruth is about to rock the baseball world again.

Lee Edelstein
Ryan Buck, Zel’s great grandson, is a gifted, but under-achieving, athlete.  Two years after a horrific accident, he has no memory of the accident itself but is plagued by nightmares related to it.  Unable to focus on the moment, Ryan is ready to give up sports for good.  Susan, his mother, knows that if her two sons are to have the kind of lives she envisions for them, she will have to raise some cash – and quickly.  And that is when she remembers the pristine Babe Ruth baseball cards Zel left behind.

Knowing almost nothing about the value of baseball cards, Susan is ripe for the picking.  But when an unscrupulous Orlando baseball card dealer tries to buy the car for a fraction of its worth, Susan makes the most important friend she has ever had.  That chance meeting between Susan Buck and Sam Frank will turn out to be almost as important to the Buck family as the one between Babe and Zel all those years ago.

Chin Music is the perfect novel for the season, but it is also the kind of feel-good baseball story that non-fans will also greatly enjoy.  Ryan Buck knows he has the ability to handle the “chin music” (a fastball thrown at a batter’s head) he might encounter during a baseball game.  The real question is whether he can handle the “chin music” life has already thrown at the Buck family.
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