Eugena Pilek’s debut novel is rich in baseball lore and the quirky small-town characters who inhabit the hometown of baseball, Cooperstown, New York. In the prologue, “Batting Practice,” a typical 1957 middle-class America is seen through the eyes and words of tour guide Francis (“Frank, if you know him well”), beginning with Cooperstown’s founding by the father of James Fenimore Cooper, author of The Last of the Mohicans. Clean air, family living and baseball; these city slickers never had it so good!
Fast forward to 1979, and the town gains a different perspective through the eyes of a newcomer, Dr. Kerwin Chylak, a self-medicating psychiatrist whose analysis of the local denizens reveal it’s a good season for psychiatry. The doctor soon gets into the swing by forging hero Mickey Mantle’s name on his children’s wooden baseball bat.
Times change, however, and when the town sees its heritage in jeopardy, they set out to save it in hilarious and often heart-rending ways. In Cooperstown, Pilek has laid out a feast of Americana, bringing out the social history that makes the United States unique. Author Stewart O’Nan’s comment hits the mark: “Cooperstown is a loopy tribute both to baseball and the small-town upstate novel.” It’s a delightful read and a treat for nostalgia buffs.