The first few chapters of this book are written as a series of letters by an eleven-year-old female middle school student to a Major League super star pitcher; the tone of the letters seem to be not quite mainstream. The letter writer, Vivian Jane Cohen, is a girl who wants to keep her eye on the ball in the only baseball team her school has, which is all boys. But after a few letters and after the professional pitcher responds, the reader becomes aware that this preteen girl is on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum.
The letter to the pitcher was an assignment for Vivy’s weekly social skills class. Her unrelenting persistence in writing to the stranger finally garners a reply. And around that time something clicks and we begin to see the world through the eyes of Vivy. We feel her discomfort, her frequent frustrations, and start learning about her triggers and coping mechanisms. The insight into her worldview is subtly and delicately introduced and alters the whole tone of the book. The previously slightly grating character becomes more and more someone we want to encourage. The coach of the school team, enamored of her pitching skills, is not sufficiently focused on her sensitivity issues but most of her teammates learn to appreciate her and understand some of her problems. The coach’s son, though, is an unrelenting, nasty bully who misses no opportunity to torment Vivy, although there is not much insight into why he feels the need to continuously bully her. Her overprotective and domineering mother tries to coax her out of the stressful position she has created for herself and encourages her to quit the team she loves. One somewhat confusing plot detail relates to Vivy’s adored older brother who suddenly announces to his family at supper that he is gay. There is a bit of disconnect between the mother’s reactions to her two children.
The book presents an invaluable introduction to what it is like to have autism by introducing this sympathetic character as she develops an interesting and complex relationship via letters and email with a renowned baseball star.
Award-winning journalist and freelance writer, Helen Weiss Pincus, has taught memoir writing and creative writing throughout the NY Metro area to senior citizens and high school students. Her work has been published in The New York Times, The Record, The Jewish Standard, and other publications. She recently added “Bubby” to her job description.