Things Invisible to See

Two families living in Michigan in the 1940’s encounter one another in this original, imaginative novel, when a teenaged baseball player hits a pitch blindly into the night, thereby changing the course of many lives. Ben Harkissian has looks and charm, but they are barely enough to save him from the consequences of his unthinking act. Clare Bishop, his victim, does not die, but paralysis is no easy burden to bear for herself or her family, especially when Ben is drafted, sent overseas, and marooned in the Pacific. Neither he nor Clare passively submits to fate, however: Confronted by Death, they propose to him a baseball game, pitting themselves, their friends, and even their mothers against the great ball players of the past, with their lives at stake.

Nancy Willard, whose other publications have included poetry, essays, and award-winning children’s books, creates here an eccentric and highly satisfying novel which is at once a fine baseball fantasy, a precisely observed story of Midwestern family life, and an exhilarating encounter with the supernatural. The invisible things of the title are the forces that surround and protect the characters, giving a dimension to their lives and to the book that is both funny and tough. The novel works on all levels.