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Play Their Hearts out: A Coach, His Star Recruit, and the Youth Basketball Machineby George Dohrmann
Synopses & Reviews
Robert Wiersema . . . has written an accomplished first novel, the sort of book veteran novelists might well envy. . . . Before I Wake is deceptively easy to read because it is so well written and so emotionally engaging. It is not, however, an easily forgotten book. It will haunt you long after you've lent it to a friend. And lend it you will, because it is too good not to share.
We go along for this unusual ride - that takes us to purgatory and awakens images of the inquisition - because we trust Wiersema's consummate skill: a talent that makes him one of our most promising and original voices.
-The Gazette (Montreal)
...rivetting debut novel...Wiersema has crafted a literary, supernatural thriller that grips the reader in a chokehold on page one and doesn't let go until the very last line...Before I Wake is a classic thriller: creepy in all the right places and deliciously suspenseful. Beyond that, it has great emotional depth and resonance.
-The Globe and Mail
Before I Wake is a stunning debut. Robert Wiersema's novel is original, thought-provoking and downright wonderful.
-Michael Connelly, author of The Closers and The Lincoln Lawyer
Through a tale that is both intimate and profound, Robert J. Wiersema reminds us there is magic in truth, and truth in the fantastic. Before I Wake is an edge-of-your-seat debut that is never faint of heart.
-Ami McKay, author of The Birth House
I wept over this book as I read it, and I'm still haunted by it. Wiersema's compassion for us all shines through in writing that is vivid and very often disturbingly powerful. He is a beautiful writer, and this is a beautiful book.
-Gail Anderson-Dargatz, author of The Cure for Death by Lightning, A Recipe for Bees and A Rhinestone Button
I read this book in less than three days, over the Christmas holidays with a house full of family and friends, and every time I had to put it down, I found myself compiling lists of people for whom I wanted to buy it. It captured me from the opening page and kept me going, wanting more, because it is a wonderful story, superbly told. The tight, tersely written chapters with their constantly changing points of view had me totally enthralled, because the characters are all utterly believable; every one of them rings true, with no miscues. A wonderful novel from a storyteller who knows what being a master of the craft entails.
-Jack Whyte, author of the Dream of Eagles series
Inventively told using cinematic jump cuts and fantastical interventions, Before I Wake provocatively dances along the lines between faith and science, life and death. Robert Wiersema's first novel shows a writer possessed with the kind of storytelling instincts that make you care about the answer to the one question that really counts: What happens next?
-Andrew Pyper, author of The Wildfire Season
From the Trade Paperback edition.
A Pulitzer Prize-winning Sports Illustrated investigative journalist traces the story of a talented young recruit, his coach and his teammates to reveal the realities behind professional basketball and the sacrifices made by prodigy players and their families. A first book. 50,000 first printing.
Eight years of unfettered access, a keen sense of a story’s deepest truths, and a genuine compassion for his subject allow Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist George Dohrmann to take readers inside the machine that produces America’s basketball stars.
Hoop dreams aren’t just for players. The fever that grips college basketball prospects hoping to strike big-time NBA gold afflicts coaches, parents, and sneaker executives as well. Every one of them has a stake in keeping America’s wildly dysfunctional, incredibly lucrative youth basketball machine up and running—no matter the consequences.
In Play Their Hearts Out, George Dohrmann offers an up-close and unforgettable look inside the maw of that machine. He shares what he learned from his years spent embedded with a group of talented young recruits from Southern California as they traveled the country playing in elite Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) events. It’s a cutthroat world where boys as young as eight or nine are subjected to a dizzying torrent of scrutiny and exploitation. Coaches vie to have them on their teams. Sneaker companies ply them with free shoes and gear. “All-star camps” are glorified cattle auctions, providing make-or-break opportunities to secure the promise of an elusive college scholarship.
At the book’s heart are the personal stories of two compelling figures: Joe Keller, an ambitious AAU coach with a master plan to find and promote “the next LeBron”—thereby paving his own path to power and riches; and Demetrius Walker, a fatherless latchkey kid who falls under Keller’s sway and struggles to live up to the unrealistic expectations his supposed benefactor has set for him. As their fortunes take shape and the pressure mounts—Demetrius finds himself profiled in Sports Illustrated at age fourteen, while Keller cultivates his business empire—Dohrmann weaves in the stories of numerous other parents, coaches, and players. Some of them see their prospects evaporate as a result of poor decisions and worse luck. Others learn how to thrive in a corrupt system by playing the right angles.
Written with incomparable detail and insight, Play Their Hearts Out is a thoroughly unique narrative that reveals the inner workings of an American game, exposing the gritty reality that lies beneath so many dreams of fame and glory.
About the Author
George Dohrmann is a senior writer at Sports Illustrated and the magazine’s investigative reporter. In 2000, while working at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, he won a Pulitzer Prize for a series of stories that uncovered a college basketball team’s academic fraud. Dohrmann lives in San Francisco with his family. This is his first book.
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