High school all-American Neely Crenshaw was probably the best quarterback ever to play for the legendary Messina Spartans. Fifteen years have gone by since those glory days, and Neely has come home to Messina to bury Coach Eddie Rake, the man who molded the Spartans into an unbeatable football dynasty.
Now, as Coach Rake’s “boys” sit in the bleachers waiting for the dimming field lights to signal his passing, they replay the old games, relive the old glories, and try to decide once and for all whether they love Eddie Rake – or hate him. For Neely Crenshaw, a man who must finally forgive his coach – and himself – before he can get on with his life, the stakes are especially high.
My husband likes to tease me for my VERY small town roots. He grew up in the city and just doesn’t get the almost cult-like culture that such a close knit community possesses. When there are only 100 kids in your graduating class–450-500 in the whole school–the society circle is very small. I couldn’t do anything against the rules or illegal because my mother would know I was in trouble before I did!
Sports RULE small towns. We were a basketball school–and oh how the players were gods. I used to have this whole holy trinity metaphor for the coaches and principles…it wasn’t very nice. I was a bit like Cameron in Bleachers. Basketball got in the way of my priorities, and so I hated it. (I never did learn to like basketball, either.)
In Messina, football is king. Nothing else matters but a system where the team wins, and as long as their coach keeps that up, who cares what he does, right? Right.
At first, Bleachers seems a lot like any other football movie or book, except that it comes at the end of the coach’s life, so it is all about stories and remembrance. However, the motivational speeches and happy thoughts soon turn darker as the players reveal that Messina’s most beloved citizen wasn’t so beloved after all. He may have been a powerful man, but he didn’t always use that power for goodness. He got the results that the town wanted, but at what cost?
Bleachers is a pretty short novel. I blew through it in a couple of hours–which is good, because I wouldn’t have wanted to spend any more time on it. I think I had a scowl on my face the whole time. The coaching tactics were bad enough, but then we got to the “relationship” between Neely and Cameron and…ew. It’s literally the most stereotypical “I peaked in high school” conversation ever. If I could have slapped him through the book, I would have.
Not the worst Grisham I’ve read so far. And the cover is pretty. I love these husband book reviews, don’t you? Alas, the mission to read all the books on my shelf.