An astonishing first novel-the story of one baseball-playing farmboy's journey into the hell of war, and the endless road out of it. It is a love story born in the terror of battle, and in the glorious early years of baseball. The writing is austerely beautiful-an incandescent prose that seems pounded out of hot iron upon an anvil.
Joseph Tyler's farm life is hard-working relentlessly in the fields. His sole pleasure comes from baseball, the new game from the North, played in the meadow near his farm. He is something of a prodigy, a natural. In 1864, with Union troops drawing close to his home, Joseph joins the Confederate army. The killing machine of war is horrific beyond comprehension, and the days of his pastoral life are gone irretrievably.
Wounded, left for dead, he wakes to find the battlefield aflame. He rescues a wounded Union soldier, a boy no older than he, from the conflagration; they collapse together by a pond. When Joseph next wakes, the Union soldier has died of his wounds. Joseph finds among his things a love letter to this soldier's sweetheart. He puts the letter in a pocket and forgets about it-until many weeks later, after being captured and sent to a horrid Union prison in Elmira, New York. With other prisoners dying around him of disease and inhuman abuse, Joseph finds the strength to live from the simple passion of that letter.
He contrives to escape the prison (via a ballgame), and goes on to become a great baseball player in the after-war years. Baseball is the only balm to his war-wracked mind. Then he meets Sarah Kingsley, the intended recipient of the letter, and his journey back to humanity truly begins.
Jeff Hutton is a landscape designer in Connecticut. He is 46 years old. This is his first novel.
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