The All-American

Written by Susie Finkbeiner
Review by Bonnie DeMoss

1952. Bertha Harding is a 16-year-old girl living in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan with her parents and her little sister Florence (Flossie). Her married brother visits often. Bertha’s dreams do not align with most other girls her age. She dreams of baseball and of playing for the Workington Sweet Peas, a team in the All-American Girls Baseball League. Flossie dreams of books and writing, and frequently flees bullies. Overall, though, they live a sweet life in a close-knit neighborhood. But then their father is accused of being associated with the Communist Party by the Un-American Activities Committee. Overnight, life changes drastically and their family is hounded out of the neighborhood, relocating to a small town in northern Michigan to start over.

What a powerful look at the American dream and what it means to be all-American! This novel is so well woven, with points of view switching mostly between Bertha and Flossie, with epistolary work in the form of letters and articles adding another element to the story. That feeling of knowing for sure what your life is about and who your friends are, and then having that pulled out from under you, is a punch in the stomach that the reader will experience along with the family. The American way of rebuilding and fighting back under stress and tremendous odds is also very evident in this book. A question the reader may ask is “Who is All-American?” Is it baseball player Bertha, reader and dreamer Flossie, or their father, the author William Harding, whose very patriotism has been challenged? The answer is all of the above. Richly layered, beautifully written, and oh, so American, this one shouldn’t be missed.