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Review: The Last Sewer Ball by Steven Schindler


More than ten years after the publication of Steven Schindler’s cult classic novel, SEWER BALLS, Whitey, Vinny, and the rest of the kids from the block return in the “sort of sequel” follow up, THE LAST SEWER BALL.

What’s a sewer ball?  It’s what you go after when you can’t afford to buy a ball to play stickball with. Your best friend holds you by the ankles and lowers you upside down into the sewer manhole, with a bent coat hanger so you can fish out balls that other kids were too lazy or too chicken to go after. And believe me, he better be your very best friend!

It started on the stoops and playgrounds of the Bronx in the 1960s. Kids with more imagination than money grew up fast playing street games, rocking to a new band called The Beatles, sneaking beers into the stands and inventing make-out games like kiss-o-leario. But as the years flew by, life on those streets went from being fun and games to dead serious. 

Vinny is on a quest to track down Whitey after decades apart, to find out what really happened to the friendship they thought would last forever. Could family tragedies, a war, and even murder, break a bond that was forged long before eighth grade graduation? Vinny may have fallen on hard times, but a grammar school reunion sets in motion a journey to find his long-lost friend. Secrets that have been simmering since childhood bubble to the surface and eventually explode, when past and present collide with not-so-instant karma.

If you are of a certain age and whether you lived in the city or suburbs, this is one of those books that will bring some nostalgia back to the days when kids really connected and made lifelong friendships. Forget about now, with every kid connected to a device with one word phrases substituting interpersonal communications. They don't even know who their neighbor is. That innate ability to instantly connect and make lifelong friendships with people that have substance and longevity seem forever gone. One of those sentiments shared in life that seems today like a pastime is of that feeling that no matter how much time passes, that connection comes rushing back as if time stood still.

I thought the author did a good job capturing that sentiment with the story written. People that know and understand this can really appreciate this story. Even though the story centered in a city, I think anyone can appreciate the value for the love and loss of a friendship. This story who centers around the characters Vinny and Whitey, really captured that purity of having a friend that no matter how much time passes, when you reconnect it’s as if time stood still. 

As a reader, you are taken through the point of view of Vinny Schmidt who takes us on his journey from youth on the city block in the Bronx through the adulthood trying to reconnect with his past. Well written with engaging characters, I enjoyed how he paralleled the story. Each chapter alternated between the past and current. I felt as you read the story this way it gives you an appreciation and better understanding of the characters and the development of the story better. You really feel both the past and present as if you were experiencing their lives with them. 

I don't want to give away too much because this is one of those stories that if you give away too much details, it will take away from it becoming full circle in the end. What I will tell you is that as read about the friendship that develops between Whitey and Vinny and that quest once life goes and to rekindle it, it will make you appreciate and reflect on your own life and appreciate the time we have with others. This is a story that represents friendship, loss, life and a testament of how we all are determinants of our own fate.

Reviewed by Michelle Bowles

Book Information
Publisher: The Elevated Press
Release Date: 6/11/13
Pages: 320

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