Billy Coffey once again takes us to the small, rural life in the South with “Steal Away Home,” a novel of following one’s dreams, the haves and the have nots, finding faith, love and, oh yeah, baseball. Lots and lots of baseball.
Owen Cross has big dreams — to one day be a Major League player. Urged on by his father who was a star pitcher until suffering an injury, Owen works day in and day out to be the best catcher and hitter that he can be. He dreams of moving on to college and then the big league one day.
But when Owen stumbles upon the mysterious and beautiful Micky Dullahan from Shantytown, a forbidden relationship develops that affects everything he has ever thought about his future.
“Steal Away Home” takes place in 2001, when Owen is 29 and still playing in the Minors for the Baltimore Orioles. When he gets called up to play one game in the Majors … and against the New York Yankees no less! … Owen finds himself reflecting upon his life.
Written in a back-and-forth format, Owen’s story jumps between the current game (which according to the author is taken from an actual game played on June 5, 2001, under a Strawberry Moon) and times from his past — during high school, the summer after graduation, time playing baseball at college, and time in the Minors.
It is a deeply introspective piece, really diving into the nitty gritty of life. It reveals the highs and the lows, and the moments to be lauded and the moments to be ashamed of that Owen faces, and that in all honesty we each face.
Besides being an interesting tale of baseball, and youth, and following one’s dreams, and life in small-town rural America, “Steal Away Home” is so much more. It is a story of redemption; seeking and realizing that we all deserve love; believing that you are special and making your mark in life; finding our worth, and knowing that we have worth; “faith comes hardest for those who have much to lose;” and ensuring that we don’t remove Jesus from our dreams.
Coffey is a master at developing deep and enigmatic, yet relatable characters. Owen is so beautifully written because, as the author notes, he most relates to Owen more than any other character he has written. Coffey is also an amazingly descriptive writer, pulling his readers deep into the scene with descriptions of New York City like “The only mountains are made of concrete and windows.”
His novels usually contain some aspect of the supernatural. Coffey’s latest novel has less of this than usual, although there is an incident with a train that will deeply impact the characters and their choices that does have a slight supernatural vein.
A very small disclaimer: there are a few incidents of mild cursing.
Fans of baseball stories and life in small-town Americana will enjoy “Steal Away Home.”
And an extra little goodie? Musician Eddie Heinzelman composed and performed an original song for “Steal Away Home” called “Dandelion.” Check it out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmLOWvkBIsg.
Four and a half stars out of five.
Thomas Nelson provided this complimentary copy for my honest, unbiased review.