REVIEW: Steal Away Home, Billy Coffey

Friday, 23 March 2018

Owen Cross grew up with two loves: one a game, the other a girl. One of those loves ruined him. Now he's counting on the other to save him. Baseball always came easy for Owen Cross. His innate talents were honed beneath the stiff hand of a father who wanted nothing more than for his son to succeed where he had failed. The girl was a little more complicated. Owen loved Micky Dullahan from the first time they met, on a lonely hill overlooking the depressed area where her troubled family had always lived. But she was from the wrong side of the tracks, and so that spot became their haven, the one place they could be together without worry of class or reputation. Owen's career progresses just as everyone expects: college, the minors, even a few stints in the big leagues. But it is on a major league field that he has the epiphany that he has always given everything to baseball—and yet it cannot love him back. Micky's advice comes back to haunt him. "You've got a second chance to love what will always love you back." And so he returns home to that hill, to the last place he ever saw her, finally ready to stop running away.

I could deal with the baseball, you know? I know zilch about the sport, but reading about it was a lot more enjoyable than I had expected, even if I didn’t understand most of what was going on. When the book was just a beautifully-written tale about a young man being torn between the two great loves of his life - his childhood girlfriend and the sport - I could go along with it quite happily… even if I was mentally routing for the guy to pick baseball because, let’s be honest, teenaged relationships don’t last. But, when Steal Away Home suddenly veered towards religion, my enjoyment of the novel plummeted.
I am an atheist. Always have been and always will be. And don’t get me wrong, a vaguely religious undertone to a novel is something that I can quite happily get on board with, but when it’s this heavy-handed? Hell no.
Owen’s Manic Pixie Dream Girl girlfriend was annoying from the very first page. I mean, her accent made my teeth grind together and her characterisation was frankly little more than two-dimensional. But when she experienced a near-death experience and became a religious messiah? I have never rolled my eyes so hard and I had to draw the line, as anyone marching around town claiming to be the second coming of Jesus would surely be tested for schizophrenia if this book was reality.
Honestly, it got a little too cultish, a little too hysterical and Owen’s girlfriend, Michaela, turned a little too much into a character akin to Ophelia for me to get any true enjoyment from this book as it reached its close. So yeah, I loved the writing and where this book started, but not at all where it ended up and frankly, my rating dropped star-by-star as Steal Away Home zigzagged towards its abysmal conclusion.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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