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Review: Box Socials, by W. P. Kinsella 1991

This is an oldie goldie. About 10 years after he wrote Shoeless Joe, which became the movie Field of Dreams and got everyone saying, “If you build it, they will come,” Kinsella went back to his roots in Alberta and wrote another in his series of books about people with very little money just sort of hanging out and sort of leaning on each other and being a community.
This is a book with some warmth. Bad things happen and people snipe at each other from time to time, but when push comes to shove, they hang together. When Truckbox Al McKlintock needs money to travel to Edmonton to play with the Alberta All-Stars against “. . . against a team of Major Leaguers, including Bob Feller, Hal Newhouser and Joe Dimaggio himself . . .” the money appears in dribs and drabs, and it’s enough to get him there.
You noticed the quotes? They’re there to point out a very strange element in this book. Kinsella, for reasons that are difficult to fathom, repeats a large number of phrases each time an occasion to do so arises. Is there a mention of Truckbox Al going to Edmonton? It is always followed by the phrase in quotes. Every time, through the whole book.
Does someone have a drink? It’s always “. . . Earl J. Rasmussen’s raisin wine or a nip or two of Heathen’s Rapture, logging-boot-to-the-side-of-the-head homebrew . . .” of which they take a nip. And there are many others.
What this does is rather strange. Boring beyond belief, but at the same time it somehow reinforces the idea that this is a book about people just hanging in the Six Corners area north of Edmonton. Not doing much of anything. Just living their lives and helping each other out. A reader who can accept the really slow rhythm, might just find that this is not a bad place to be.
Some stuff does happen. There is a Ukrainian wedding. And Truckbox Al McKlintock does go to Edmonton and plays against a team of Major Leaguers, including Bob Feller, Hal Newhouser and Joe Dimaggio himself.

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