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A Life in Football, From Glory to Pain

By Katherine Hill

Mitch Wilkins, a child football prodigy caught up in family drama, has never met his dad. His more grounded Uncle Tim is his live-in male role model and his first coach, with a fundamentals philosophy the other boys don’t care for despite big wins. Mitch’s mom is the sadder-but-wiser type, who doesn’t let Tim all the way into their lives, dotes on her son. Even fatherless, Mitch is going places. He was born practically with a football in his hands. We love him from the start.

Credit…Zoé Fisher

I’ve never cared for multiperspective books (well, “As I Lay Dying,” but Faulkner set the bar high): Just as you’re getting comfortable with one persona, in comes the next. But though Katherine Hill works one character at a time — portrait by portrait, psyche by psyche, time frame by time frame — in her novel “A Short Move,” she crafts a deftly detached third person to speak with one voice.

We linger most often in Mitch’s head, but the concerns and sacrifices and interior lives of the people around him help delineate the cost of his sports dream. Mitch is pure purpose and focus; the others are left to feel the feelings, worry the worries, lose the things that get lost. Emotionally awkward, Mitch has a beautiful ease on the field, an ease born not just of his own hard work but of the uneven efforts of his father, his uncle, his devoted mom. Also teachers, successive girlfriends, wives and lovers, children, grandchildren. And, of course, the people of the game: owners, teammates, coaches and fans. Ultimately, though, the glory of the field goes by, leaving disease, which comes with its own dedicated crew — therapists, hapless ministers, physicians, the scientist who will in the end dissect Mitch’s damaged brain.

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