Audio reviews reflect PW 's assessment of the audio adaptation of a book and should be quoted only in reference to the audio version.
As this poignant story begins, famed high school football coach Eddie Rake, who was known for producing one extraordinary team after another until he was fired, lays dying. Still, he remains a legend in Messina, a small town that comes together every week "to pour their emotions upon a Friday night football team." Indeed, in this town the football field is "more sacred than a cemetery." Neely Crenshaw, perhaps the best quarterback ever to play for Coach Rake, had vowed he'd never come back to Messina while Rake was alive. Yet he returns to share a vigil with the team members he left behind 15 years ago. Slowly, the narrative reveals why Rake was fired so suddenly and what happened between him and Neely. Along the way, the players reminisce and look hard at who they have become. This is a story of men's loyalty, their toughness and their clumsy affection for each other. Grisham's voice calls to mind that of Martin Sheen; he reads quietly and doesn't modulate his voice as the various team members tell their stories. He doesn't need to. His understated, stellar performance outshines the book's cloying story line. Simultaneous release with the Doubleday hardcover (Forecasts, Aug. 18). (Sept.)