The Backwards K
by J. J. Hebert
Mindstir Media

"Tim, this is Jet Brine. The dad points to me like I'm an animal in a zoo. 'He was big when I was growing up.'"

Jet Brine is an ex major leaguer. He was great at his craft, but for most fans, his career was cemented in ignominy as the guy who took a called third strike that ended his team’s quest to win the World Series. Now he rattles around memorabilia-sales events and tries to come up with rent money by gambling in casinos. At a low ebb, he finally decides to try a real job working in an office. That experience leads to a degree of responsibility, even more irresponsibility, and a complicated relationship with a beautiful woman. The problem is, Jet just can’t seem to get past not only his final failure at the plate, but also his ultimate failure as a husband and father.

Hebert pens his tale in first person, present tense. This quickens the pace of his story and adds immediacy—particularly in the game descriptions, which ring with both excitement and authenticity. The author’s supporting characters come across as particularly credible. More than merely stock players, they feel like real flesh and blood inhabitants of Jet’s world. Hebert keeps his prose straightforward and devoid of lyricism. In addition to sounding like it’s actually coming from the mouth of a real ex-ballplayer, it also enhances intimacy with, and empathy for his protagonist whose continued use of rationalization reveals an individual under the influence of addiction. Jet’s history of lessons learned too late, promises broken too often, and resolve compromised too easily, makes him not just flawed but human. In fact, it is the author’s exploration of the human qualities of transgression, forgiveness, and redemption, that raises this tale above the level of mere sports yarn.

Will Jet only be remembered for a dream-ending strikeout? Can he mend the many human fences he’s broken? Will he finally be able to turn his life around? These questions and their answers are intriguingly pondered in The Backwards K.

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