Description: Sandra Neil Wallace’s debut historical fiction novel Muckers is based on the true story of the 1950 Jerome Muckers football team and the championship season that rallied an Arizona town together and turned tragedy into a triumph.
The inspiring yet heartbreaking novel delves deep into the rocky terrain of a racially-divided town and a team whose world is suddenly upended, widening the rift between Anglos and Mexican Americans forced to choose between cohesion or rebellion.
Red O’Sullivan’s world is crumbling around him: the mine that employs most of town is on the brink of closing, threatening to shutter the entire town. Red will be part of the final graduating class of Hatley High School, but he’s got his own burdens to bear: his older brother, Bobby, died in the war, and he’s been struggling to follow in his footsteps ever since. That means assuming Bobby’s old position as quarterback, and leading the last-ever Muckers team to the championship. Maybe then his angry, broken-hearted father will acknowledge him, and they’ll be able to put Bobby’s death behind them.
While the Muckers are racially-united, their town is divided. Anglos live near the top of the mountain and Mexican Americans down below—where Red’s best friend Cruz lives, and Angie, who Red longs to be with. When the Communist scare threatens to tear the team apart, Red and the hardscrabble Muckers must find a way to go undefeated and win the state title.
Unforgettable characters fighting to make their mark on the field and in the world combine for a period novel that will spark dialogue on this timely subject.
Disclaimer: I received a finished copy of Muckers from TLC Book Tours in exchange for my opinion.
I decided to read Muckers because the family issues sounded interesting, along with the idea of a team and town with racial issues uniting behind a diverse team.
I’m grew up in a small town in Oklahoma, where football is ridiculously important. I loved watching football in high school, but so much of it had to do with the fact that I knew the players and that games were a social event. I didn’t understand everything about the game, but I shared intense emotions and hope with the other members of the audience. I can understand how and why football was so important to the people in this town.
The Muckers are a team from a small mining town in Arizona. The town in the book is fictional, but the story is based on real events. The town revolves around and relies on the mine. The mining company owns most of the town and employs most of the residents. After WWII, things for the mining town aren’t looking so great economically. There are rumors that the mine might shut down and the residents will have no choice but to move to other towns.
Red tells the story in first person. His family is Irish. He’s had a hard time of it, he lost his brother in the war and his parents never recovered. His mom had a meltdown and is still in the hospital. His dad is important at the mine and an alcoholic. Red is kind of on his own. He has two close friends, Rabbit and Cruz. His brother was great at football, and Red has the potential to be great, too. The town knows that big changes are on the horizon, so they’re even more interested in a big win from the team, which adds more pressure to Red.
I liked Red a lot. He was going through a really rough and confusing time. He’s a leader for the team, and winning is important to him. He wants to measure up to his brother and make his parents proud. He also has to deal with ridiculous people accusing others of being communists, and Red can see how unfair it is. Red has grown up with the racism and unfairness in the town, and one of his best friends is Mexican. Red doesn’t understand why people act the way they do, and it’s frustratingly easy to relate to. Red works really hard for the team, the town, and his family. Red faces loss and hope, and it’s so easy to like him.
The team works so hard. They know the town might not have much longer, and if it ends they won’t be together anymore. They want something important and lasting to remember and take with them. The town wants the same thing and some of the adults probably want it more than the team does. I can’t imaging how stressful it would be to have to deal with a huge season of football while knowing your whole town might dissolve and you might be separated from your friends.
A slight issue I had with the book is that it would have been interesting and relevant to see the story from a POC’s perspective. Racism affected Cruz a lot more than Red, but you only see the racism from Red’s viewpoint. It’s still an important story, and Red has a lot of confusion about what happens which might help kids seeing the same things happen. Witnessing hard things is still difficult, especially when it’s someone you care about.
I enjoyed reading Muckers! It’s not something I would have picked to read on my own, but I was really invested in what happened to Red and the team! The game scenes were really intense and fun to read, I was hanging on every word. I was definitely pulling for Red and hoping for the best for him! I probably wouldn’t read this one again, but I would be really interested to read more of Sandra Neil Wallace’s work! Also notable: the book is BRIGHT orange, has a map of the town (which was really helpful to me), and has newspages from the town’s paper throughout the book, which definitely added to the smalltown feel! I would recommend Muckers if you enjoy intense sports situations, people coming together, and characters you can’t help but root for.
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