The Perfect Season, by Stephen Roth

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Stephen Roth for providing me with a copy of this novel, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

After being approached by the author and asked to read his book, I was curious to see what Stephen Roth had to offer. A book he said had elements of professional sports, racism, and even a degree of spirituality caught my attention and I could not help but want to delve a little deeper. Charlie Unger loves everything about the Detroit Tigers, especially the ins and outs of baseball. He’s made it his own religion, which also fills the gaps left by the death of his mother. When Charlie meets his neighbour and they connect on many levels, his passion for baseball only grows, as he learns to accept just how great life can be, one day at a time. Roth provides the reader with a thought provoking read in this novel, sure to impress many.

Charlie Unger may only be a teenager, but his passion for baseball is like no other. The statistics, the sound of the bat hitting a ball, and even the players play a part in his passion. He wants nothing other than to share his obsession with others, though few comprehend what goes through his mind, including members of the Detroit Tigers, Charlie’s hometown team.

Having lost his mother to cancer, Charlie’s focus is the Tigers and how he can make them a better Major League team once again. Supported by a doting father, Charlie tries to make his mark on the team by writing in with suggestions that will improve each player’s game. Around this time, he also meets his neighbour, Jasmine, who fled civil unrest in her native Cameroon. She brings a new perspective to Charlie’s life, seeking to show him the power of spirituality, which Charlie has a hard time comprehending with his scientific mind.

Together, their friendship blossoms, as Charlie becomes more involved with the Tigers organisation and proves an integral part of their late-season success. However, things outside of Charlie’s control lurk on the horizon, forcing everyone to put life into perspective. Stephen Roth takes the reader on quite the journey, entertaining and planting seeds in equal measure.

With no context as to his style, I entered this reading experience blind. That said, Stephen Roth caught my attention early on and I am happy to have taken the time to read this book. It stirred up a number of emotions for me, some good and others less positive, but that is for the reader to discover. Roth knows how to tell a story wioothout getting too caught up in the minutiae, while delivering some key messages throughout. A great plot and easy to digest narrative made this one book I will remember for a while to come. I am eager to see what else Roth may have out there for me to try, now that I have a strong baseline.

Charlie Unger is a great protagonist for this piece. He delivers a strong presence, offering a little backstory and some decent development throughout. Charlie lives and breathes his Detroit Tigers, but does so from a firmly scientific standpoint. His struggles with the emotional side of things could stem from some autistic tendencies, but there is a great deal of passion inside this teenager. The life experiences he has shape him as a person and help to create a foundation for others throughout the book. Roth has a handle on how to develop characters, which is shown throughout this novel.

A book that pulls on sports, racism, and spirituality in a single narrative is surely leaving itself open for trouble. However, Stephen Roth has tackled these three subjects perfectly, offering a much needed balance to keep the reader engaged and informed throughout. Roth uses an easy to comprehend narrative, peppers it with facts and baseball lingo, while utilising great plot twists and characters who help keep the momentum going. There are major life issues presented to the reader, as they synthesise all that is being said. I am eager to see what else Roth has published, or intends to put to paper, as this was an enjoyable experience, even if I found myself wondering in which direction things would go from time to time.

Kudos, Mr. Roth, for a great debut (for me at least). You have some strong elements in your writing and I hope others discover it soon.