A Book Review by Margaret Robinson
Swarthmore native Chris Ludovici has just published his first novel, The Minors, and it’s a five-star read.
The Minors tells the story of Samantha Heller, 16, who is being uprooted from her hometown, school, and friends because her dad has been suddenly transferred to Chicago. Sam’s dad hires Nick, a 29-year-old carpenter, to fix up the Heller house before it’s sold. Nick, a failed baseball player who doesn’t have much in the way of family, gets involved with the Hellers, even teaching Sam to drive. Then, as the Amazon summary says, “something terrible happens.” Sam has to grow up, painfully, and much too fast.
Happily, The Minors even rises above the requirements of a great read. Ludovici deepens the characters and advances the plot in a few surprising and effective set pieces. One of these depicts the surreal benevolence of dancing on and on, to loud music, hot and sweaty, and for the first time totally and deliberately drunk. Another set piece starts a chapter and makes clear, in precise numerical detail, just how hugely difficult it is to hit a fastball. A third renders the endlessness of driving across Ohio in the summer, with the windows open, in the heat. These passages, the work of a sure-handed writer, invite rereading for the sheer pleasure of it.
The novel earns five stars from me for its engaging characters, spot-on dialogue, unexpected plot turns, well-observed setting, as well as just plain heart. The writer loves every character, warts and all, and he makes the reader love them, too. Sam is the main point-of-view character, but we get inside the heads of the others as well: Steve and Liz Heller, Sam’s parents; Oscar, Sam’s little brother; and Becky, Sam’s best friend. Even the pets get their share of writerly attention. This novel is all about family. And Sam’s hometown, Baxter, has a few things in common with Swarthmore.
Author Chris Ludovici, who grew up on Elm Avenue, is a 1996 graduate of Strath Haven High School. He was born while his parents were Swarthmore College students and sometimes as a baby went to class with them. He submitted The Minors more than 100 times before finding a publisher at Unsolicited Press in Portland, Ore. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Chris lives in Drexel Hill with his wife and young son.