Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger

Rating: 10/10 ★★★★★★★★★★ 
Title: Last Days of Summer
Author: Steve Kluger
Genre: coming of age, baseball
URL: Amazon
Price: US$13.99
Other Information/warnings: language, child prodigy, racism (period)
Summary [from the publisher]:

Last Days of Summer is the story of Joey Margolis, neighborhood punching bag, growing up goofy and mostly fatherless in Brooklyn in the early 1940s. A boy looking for a hero, Joey decides to latch on to Charlie Banks, the all-star third baseman for the New York Giants. But Joey’s chosen champion doesn’t exactly welcome the extreme attention of a persistent young fan with an overactive imagination. Then again, this strange, needy kid might be exactly what Banks needs.

My review:I think it’s impossible for Mr Kluger to write anything I wouldn’t love, but I wouldn’t have read this story if I had known I’d end up bawling like a baby for hours on a flight over the Pacific. Mind you, I’d been giggling uncontrollably for hours before that, so I guess it all evens out.

Yes, it has a sad, though very fitting, ending. Don’t, for the love of pikelets, let that put you off this lovely, hilarious and deeply touching story about a fatherless boy and the baseball player who ends up being in loco parentis in all the important and loving ways. This isn’t a gay-themed story, though it covers so many issues surrounding prejudice, including the hateful racism of the era and the internment of Americans of Japanese heritage during the war. It’s a story about love in all its forms, about strength and courage and using what talents we have to overcome dire circumstances. I honestly don’t know who I loved best in this  story – the kids (including Joey), the rough and ready Charlie and his planet-sized heart, his fabulous fiancée Hazel (Charlie’s match in every possible way), or the many, many minor characters Kluger weaves into this fabulously rich and moving story about coming of age in a time of war.

If I could write as well as Steve Kluger’s left nipple, I would die a happy woman. No one does it better. Long may he continue to outshine all lesser creatures, and continue producing these warm, wonderful books.