David C. Cook
Safe at Home by Richard Doster has a title that is quite ironic. True, the story that Doster is telling utilizes baseball as its focal point, thus making the title’s meaning seem obvious. However, the alternate meaning of the phrase, if taken out of the context of baseball, is far from accurate. The characters in the book, which is set in a small southern town during the 1950’s Civil Rights Movement, are far from safe in their homes.
The book tells the fictional story of a reporter named Jack Hall, who loves baseball more than life. He lives and breathes the game. Thus, the threat of seeing his town’s baseball team fall apart due to financial difficulty leaves him with the idea that the only way to bring life back to the team is to give them a new player, one who will even the odds. His solution is a young black man named Percy Jackson, a particularly skillful player whose abilities are going to waste due to the color of his skin.
The story contains some very touching and thought-provoking ideas, all of which are certainly quite worthy of consideration. For instance, the main theme of the book, acceptance, is discussed many different times, and the conclusion always seems to be that we must always accept people despite their differences. However, one of my main problems with the book is that I do not think the ideas are presented very well. Though the story is certainly worth telling, the plot was slow at times and tended to get bogged down in unimportant details, which, while adding to the culture and feel of the book, did nothing to advance the actual narrative.
Aside from its habit of getting bogged down in seemingly meaningless conversations and sub-plots, I thought the meat of the story was quite good. The characters were very believable, especially Jack’s wife, Rose Marie. I found her to be one of the most moving characters in the story. Though she personally has no problem with people of color, she fears the sacrifice she knows change will require. She doesn’t want to see anybody hurt, and she fears that if her husband continues along the path he has chosen, harm will come to her family. Her first priority is to protect her family, and she cannot see herself doing that with the changes her husband is attempting to initiate.
All in all, this book was certainly worth reading, especially for baseball fans and those who enjoy looking at the lives of interesting characters. I greatly admire the depth of the people involved in the story, and I will be interested to see if their positive attributes can be carried over into the sequel. – Jordan A. Rockey, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
The spring of ’53 started out like any other for sports columnist Jack Hall, as he and the rest of his small southern town, Whitney, eagerly awaited the magical first pitch that would open the Bobcat’s season. But when ticket sales wane with the new distractions of air conditioning and I Love Lucy, the Bobcats face an early end not only to the season but to their careers as well. The team needs a white knight to save them and ironically, that white knight seems to be a 17 year old "colored kid", Percy Jackson, who’s got a .364 batting average and has never seen a grounder he couldn’t chase down.
Not everyone—not even most people—though can wrap their heads around an integrated baseball field, even if they have seen them on TV. This is Whitney. Things don’t change and they don’t need to change. Do they?
Hearts, minds, faith and tradition will be tested as will friendships and marriages when this sleepy southern town comes to grips with itself amid the early years of the Civil Rights Movement.