Monday, May 23, 2011

Two for the Show by Chris Paynter

Book:  Two for the Show
Author:  Chris Paynter
Publisher:  Blue Feather Books, Ltd.

When I found out that Two for the Show had hit the bookshelves earlier this month, I pulled out my happy little Snoopy dance, and shook my moneymaker until even the Husky puppy looked at me like I’d peed on one too many bushes.

[Insert brusque throat clearing]  Suffice to say, I was quite pleased.

See, I’ve always been a firm believer that while it may only take a few hours or days to read a book, the really, really good ones percolate inside of you for weeks, months, and sometimes even years. 

In all honesty, I only read Playing for First, the series kickoff, in April, so I’m still mentally playing pitch and catch with the story elements and the characters. But, I’m happy that the timing worked out, and Two for the Show was published when it was – it’s allowed me to quickly become reacquainted with Chris Paynter’s well-drawn characters, and to put some active thought back on this storyline, which explores a variety of issues, not the least of which are vulnerability, trust, and empowerment.

Two for the Show focuses on the lives, loves, and careers of Lisa Collins and Amy Perry.  These friends and former lovers are both in good places.  Their careers are on a well-deserved roll, and they both have met the loves of their lives.  Within a matter of weeks, both Lisa and Amy get called up to The Show.  Lisa takes over the coveted role as the reporter for the Cincinnati Reds, and Amy is called up from Triple A to take over as the starting First Baseman.  Of course, Life is never fair, and soon Lisa and her lover, Frankie, are facing a possible recurrence of Frankie’s breast cancer; while Amy and her partner, Stacy, are dealing with the failing health and passing of Amy’s mother. 

Both Frankie and Amy withdraw from their partners and their friends as they fight their personal demons, and struggle to control and ignore overwhelming feelings of loss and abandonment.  Of course, Two for the Show addresses several themes, and one of the most powerful is that of friendship and trust.  It’s hard work, but both friends and couples eventually come to realize that while love isn’t always easy, it is worth the bare-knuckle, bench-clearing brawl to save it.

Oh.  Okay.  I thought the book was, uh, about baseball . . .

The book is about baseball.  However, Ms. Paynter really uses the game as more of a zippy little helmet-shaped cart to shuttle the characters between various points in the narrative .  Earlier, I mentioned that I considered the story more a study on the issues of vulnerability, trust, and empowerment in life, love, and careers, than anything else . . .

Hold on, let me grab a chair and a cold drink, sounds like this is going to take a while.

Not really, I don’t want to go into a dissertation on the subject, because I could never do justice to this artfully drawn storyline.  However, my point is, raise your hand if you’ve ever started a new job, moved to a new city, faced your own mortality or that of someone you adore, or been in any relationship where you didn’t feel just the teeniest, tiniest bit exposed. 

Yup, thought so. And that’s why the book works on so many levels.

The characters in this series are brilliant.  Lisa is smart, solid, loyal, and knows more about baseball than anyone I’ve ever met.  Amy is quiet, shy, humble, and a total jock.  Frankie has an inner strength and confidence, but a fear that is deep and raw.  Stacy is honest and sweet, but will not compromise herself or her needs.  Nick Sanders is the wily veteran, and a quiet rock when Amy’s world starts to tilt.  And, then there’s Sarah, the Press Box Yoda, who really just needs a good woman in her life. 

And speaking of Sarah, for such a rich, interesting character that has been so vital in such subtle ways in both Playing for First and Two for the Show, what really is her ultimate role?  Will she always be the bit character that swoops in when none of the other main characters can complete the scene?  Or, are we being set up with the odd and occasional pieces of her back story for more down the line?  Just wondering, because I always find myself enjoying her role and wanting more, more, more.

I’ve developed a huge respect for Chris Paynter.  There is so much to like about her simple, careful and well-conceived themes; the way she sprinkles subtle bits of humor and pathos into the mix; the story behind the story, and the very human, un-superhero characters.  The book is about more than women in love, breaking the gender barriers in the last great bastion of manliness, the creased, ugly faces of discrimination and hatred, or the crushing pain of fear and loss. 

The book is about learning it's okay to be vulnerable with your friends and yourself, to trust even when you can't see where you are, and to do whatever you have to do, no matter how hard it is, to get where you want to be.

And I love that most of all.

This book had me smiling, swiping away tears, feeling proud to be a woman, and ultimately anxious to find out what happens in the third book. I’m giving Two for the Show a 5.3 out of 6 on the Rainbow Scale. 

More, please.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Salem. I'm glad you enjoyed "Two for the Show"! I have a stand-alone romance coming out next after the first of the year, "Survived by Her Longtime Companion." BUT, I'm currently working on "From Third to Home" (the third in the PFF Series). Again, thank you. I enjoy your reviews! Keep 'em comin'!