Obligatory Scenes in A Life Intercepted
I was prepared not to like Charles Martin’s A Life Intercepted. I’ve been studying obligatory scenes, defined by Shawn Coyne in The Story Grid as “elements…so familiar and identifiable to the listener/reader that they immediately induce an expectation.” As much I love sports and the values that they teach, I seldom find a fictional adult sports story that provides the obligatory scenes in a manner that doesn’t come across as cheesy or contrived. Even before I read the plot summary (see Amazon’s description below), I was skeptical.
Twelve years ago Matthew “the Rocket” Rising had it all. Married to his high school sweetheart and one of the winningest quarterbacks in the history of college football, he was the number one NFL draft pick. But on the night of the draft, he plummeted from the pinnacle of esteem. Falsely accused of a heinous crime with irrefutable evidence, it seemed in an instant all was lost–his reputation, his career, his freedom, and most devastatingly, the love of his life.
Obligatory Scenes: Color Me Skeptical
I wasn’t even planning to read A Life Intercepted over a recent three-day weekend. I picked it up on Sunday evening while Mrs. Right was immersed in Downton Abbey (I have not yet been sucked into the vortex that the show evidently is.). I thought, well, I’ll read a couple of chapters so that I can give a progress report to the colleague who loaned it to me and just knew that I would love it.
On a related note, I don’t normally do book reviews on my blog. Actually, this is the first. But though the genre of adult sports novels has disappointed me time and time again, I think it is a genre with great potential for readers–and writer–like me.
Obligatory Scenes Delivered with Freshness
Adult sports stories seem to always focus on a washed-up could-have-been. He is usually an alcoholic with nothing but stories of the good ol’ days, seeking redemption through coaching a youth team that he is forced into coaching. Mix in an unexpected romance with a single mom of one of the members of the protagonist’s team, add a scene in which the main character must choose between his old life and his new life of investing in the next generation, stir, and presto–a sports story!
A Life Intercepted delivers the expected scenes:
- Washed-up former athlete: Matthew Rising, the best high school and college quarterback to ever walk the planet.
- Has-been: Locked up for the last twelve years, robbing professional football of its best prospect ever. Most of his friends have abandoned him except for a few who stick with him despite their doubts.
- Stories of the good ol’ days: Legendary stories, stretching the limits of believable at times.
- Redemption through coaching a youth team: Just a single player, an upcoming senior quarterback at Rising’s high school. The author comes through with believable and specific instruction from Rising to his budding protege. Timely, relevant coaching is the perhaps the most difficult part of a sports novel to pull off. Martin’s tutoring sequences are spot on.
- Unexpected romance: Rising pursues his wife, whose life the accusations against him has all but destroyed. Usually the most predictable part of a sports novel, Martin mixes in a refreshing love story that breaks the mold of the usual conventions. (Or perhaps he mixes in refreshing sports scenes into his love story?)
- Choice between old and new life: The main character’s old life is not left in the rear-view mirror as if it never existed. Neither does it define him.
A Life Intercepted is a yes and yes novel. Yes, it followed every convention I predicted it would contain. But yes, I give it a thumbs up anyway because the story stretches the usual bounds to deliver a compelling hard-fought redemption story. And I’ll forever be a sucker for stories of redemption because that’s my story, too.
A Life Intercepted…for a Couple of Days
On Monday afternoon of the long weekend when I started the book, I slipped A Life Intercepted into my backpack, read and ready to return. I slept, ate, and wrote for a session or two on my own book but did little else as I pushed determinedly toward the story’s climax. Call it a weekend intercepted. And a weekend well spent.
Check out Charles Martin’s A Life Intercepted. I think you will agree that it will be worth its interception of time in your life, too.
[bluebox] Al Ainsworth is the author of five books:
Coach Dave Season Three: Middle School[/bluebox]