Today, Cole Meyer reviews Hannah Gersen’s debut novel Home Field, which follows the struggles of a football coach and his children in a small, rural Maryland town. It explores the different ways that the family deals with the mother’s suicide. This summer debut is not to be missed.
Home Field by Hannah Gersen, out yesterday from HarperCollins, is a book about recovery. It is a book about the ways people rebound from injury, from heartache, from death. This debut novel follows its characters as they learn the limits of their bodies and struggle to entrust themselves to those around them. Gersen’s bold debut is dark and hopeful and begs us to question how depression and suicide are treated in society.
Home Field sets the pace in the prologue, when Nicole, wife of high school football coach Dean Renner, mother of three, commits suicide. A lesser novel may have tucked the suicide away, but Gersen is daring enough to write it for all to see. It’s when Stephanie, Nicole’s daughter, realizes “what a fragile thing her body really [is]”: a motif the novel returns to again and again. Dean worries at one point that Stephanie “had decided just to put her mother’s death out of her mind,” that she wasn’t physically able to cope, and later he relishes his old football days, the “heavy animal sound of their bodies smashing together . . . the dizzying, disconcerting pain of it.” They’re different pains, different trials for the body to undergo. Every word that follows Nicole’s suicide is a step toward recovery. Stephanie struggles academically and experiments with drugs; Dean resigns from football, only to become the interim girls’ cross-country coach; eleven-year-old Robby withdraws and skips school; eight-year-old Bry develops a sudden interest in his aunt’s fundamentalist Christian church. Gersen’s characters question how to rebuild their lives in the wake of their tragedy. How can everything change and yet feel the same? Read more.