Smokey O by Celia Cohen is a story that takes us on a trip into the dugouts of the Women’s Baseball League, where the personalities are as big and diverse as the players on the diamond. Add in a Clash of the Titans size feud, and the “W” doesn’t just stand for “Women.” It stands for “War.”
Hotshot first baseman, Smokey O, never met a reporter she didn’t like. So when she insults Baseball Olympic Legend, Jill “Mac” MacDonald, she doesn’t think anything of it. That is, until she is immediately traded to Mac’s team, the Delaware Blue Diamonds, the same day her quote hits the sports page. Now she must walk into the lion’s den, face her new team, and eat her words. From the beginning, Smokey’s antics with the press cause more harm than good and increases the rift between her and Mac. Yet her talent and skill on the field push the Blue Diamonds to play their best game in years.
But outside bystanders have their own agenda. And if Smokey can’t control her words she could end up costing the Blue Diamonds and Mac another chance at the title. Will Smokey be able to curb her statements to help her team? Or will she end up losing something more valuable than a trophy?
When an author chooses to write a narrative about a team sport, it is wonderful when that author provides depth to the supporting players as well as the two leads. While this story is about the rivalry between Smokey and Mac, it’s also about the Delaware Blue Diamonds. Cohen gives us a solid supporting cast of players who are fun to learn about off the field and cheer to victory on the field. She develops them progressively as Smokey becomes more familiar and chummy with them. In return, they bring out a respectable side of Smokey. They create in her a loyalty that is so fierce that her decision process changes – from doing what’s best for Smokey to doing what’s best for the team.
There is only one character that is under-developed, and that is Mac MacDonald. It’s actually very smart because Cohen is able to give her an air of mystery that very few can figure out. It also makes her completely unknown to Smokey outside of her accolades as an Olympic gold medalist and star center fielder. Mac doesn’t give too much away emotionally or socially. The most emotion you see from her is on the baseball field. It’s a really creative and useful way to keep Smokey and Mac at arm’s length for the duration of the story, yet keep the reader intrigued to know what happens to them in the end.
The Writing Style
For this story, Cohen decided to go with an interview format. The entire thing is told in first person from Smokey’s perspective. However, you sense that the Smokey telling the story is much different from the Smokey portrayed in it. Current day Smokey is older and aware of the way she was as a young player – confident, brass, and really good at playing ball. She regales about how she gained attention with her antics, despite how it made her appear, and you feel a sense of guilt from this older and wiser person. It is through this narration Cohen is able to show Smokey’s remorse over her reckless decisions and how they affected her teammates, her coaches, and even Mac herself. It makes her more appealing to the reader to know that even though she didn’t always think before she spoke, it doesn’t mean she was not aware of her actions.
The play-by-play of the games was really concise and not overly detailed. In baseball, it’s easy to get caught up in the particulars of every little play. Cohen, however, does a great job of giving you the information you need to follow the team during its run to the title without dragging the pace of the story.
I wish it had been a little bit longer. The pacing was so nice throughout the entire story until I reached the last two chapters. And then I felt it was rushed. Having those last two chapters extend a little bit would’ve allowed the reader to ease into the final reveal, letting them savor the disclosure of how Smokey and Mac’s tumultuous relationship resolved.
While this may seem like a typical baseball story, it is anything but. Cohen does a phenomenal job of giving us not only two leads who are fun to watch battle on and off the diamond, she also gives a great supporting cast of teammates that are just as fun to follow. If you’re a big fan of baseball and the women who play the game, then you’re going to love this one.
Excerpt from Smokey O by Celia Cohen
We stepped onto the field and into the blind and pitiless stare of the stadium lights. I went to the mound, she to the plate. She settled into the batting stance that I had imitated as a young fan and nodded at me to start throwing.
Crraaccckkk! My first pitch she ripped right back at me, and if I hadn’t gotten my glove up by luck and by reflex, I would have made a team of dentists very busy and very rich for a long time.
The second pitch zoomed past my right ear, and the third blasted at my feet and had me skipping out of its way.
I held the fourth ball in my hand and glared at her, but she was setting herself nonchalantly for the next pitch. I wasn’t that stupid – I knew she was doing this on purpose. I decided I’d rather not appear to be intimidated and kept on pitching…
There was one ball left. My nerves were gone. I threw it and baled off the mound, only to see it soar high above my head into the center field seats. I felt very foolish.
I was sweaty and exhausted and sore. Mac look tired and serene, but then she spoke and I knew what she was keeping inside.
“I heard about you and Claire Belle,” she said.
“Mac, I didn’t know.”
“She knew,” Mac said.
Without another word, without another look, Mac headed toward the clubhouse.
I’d had it.
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9781594931987
- Publisher: Bella Books
Celia Cohen Online
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