Home Run, the novelization of the forthcoming movie, tells the story of Cory Brand, a baseball phenomenon with an ugly past and a present that’s not looking so hot, either.  He has everything the world can offer: money, women, and fame.  He’s also an alcoholic with significant anger management issues and a bum knee.  A number of poor choices lead to a suspension and a return to his Oklahoma hometown where he is forced to confront a series of demons from his past including a fractured relationship with his brother, Clay, and a reintroduction to a love left behind.

Movie adaptions as books are tough – tough to write, tough to review, and occasionally tough to read.  Faith-based movies, given their track record in terms of quality, just increase the level of difficulty. For this reason, it’s easy to approach Home Run by Travis Thrasher with some trepidation.  Fortunately, Thrasher, who has a track record of turning out edgy, relevant work, proves himself equal to the task.

With Home Run, Thrasher is tasked with flushing out the well-worn tale of a tarnished hero returning home to rediscover himself.  Though set against a backdrop of baseball, this is in many ways incidental to the story.  The true heart of the story is the steep road to recovery from substance abuse – made possible through the acceptance of Christ as one’s redeemer.  The path to that realization is far from direct and provides ample opportunity for our protagonist to flounder and fail.

Despite inheriting the over-used convention, Thrasher manages to create a compelling page-turner that, though far from original, is both satisfying and inspiring.  He injects a level of depth in character development that moves the narrative beyond a surface-level conversation.  His use of flashbacks allows us to view Cory as more than a two-dimensional selfish drunk, depicting a gifted young man as he gradually deteriorates into a disillusioned, angry soul.

There are some missed opportunities in narrative and character development – where the plot is predictable or where a supporting person appears to have been selected from the top-ten list of redemption movie roles.   We are provided scant hints about Cory and Clay’s parents, Michael and Alicia Brand.  Considering how critical the relationship with the father is to understanding Cory’s motivations, the character is thinly drawn and scarcely explored.

Home Run isn’t the most substantial novel you’ll read this year, and it won’t make anyone forget Eight Men Out or Bang the Drum Slowly.  However, it succeeds as a recovery story that, though not entirely avoiding the genre’s conventions, provides an entertaining read with a solid heart.

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