In a small Virginia town in 1971, a high school football star runs out on his pregnant girlfriend. Six years later, that child meets his father for the first time and discovers the athlete within. Before long he is on the fast-track to the NFL, coached by a relentless Vietnam veteran uncle, nourished by a patient working mom, and defended by an ambitious girlfriend, all of whom tie their own hopes to his career.
... though Katherine Hill works one character at a time — portrait by portrait, psyche by psyche, time frame by time frame — in her novel A Short Move, she crafts a deftly detached third person to speak with one voice ... The beauty of the novel is that the teams don’t particularly matter. You go from one to another, your career hurtles on, your exhaustion grows. The pace of the storytelling here is breakneck — an entire life wind-sprints past — an elegant time-lapse in which we see the flower bud, bloom, wither, die. A short move, let’s call it ... There are very few scenes of football here, only enough to get the flavor of the hits, the taste of blood, the price of the zone, the attraction of attention, the distraction of it, too. Instead of dramatic play-by-play and hackneyed triumph, Hill gives us the more quotidian moments that come after the game, between seasons, after the sun of youth sets, some of them cruel ... This is definitely a good book for football fans. But it’s a great book for fans of men and boys, so many of them caught up in the dark world of dreams come true. And in that way, A Short Move isn’t about football at all.
Hill fills this extensive life story of an NFL star with poignant emotional snapshots ... Hill’s elision of details about Mitch’s divorces and retirement increase the emotional effect of the changes in his life on the reader, and a surprising coda generates painful hindsight for Mitch about his life choices. Fans of sweeping family epics will enjoy this dissection of fame, sports, and the drive for connection.