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Box Social

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Fans of W.P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe, the wondrously inventive baseball novel from which the movie Field of Dreams was made, might reasonably expect the author to play ball once more in Box Socials. The batter depicted on the cover, the dust-jacket blurb, and the first sentence of the book all promise just that. But almost none of the action in this sentimental look at rural life in Alberta, Canada, in the 1940s takes place on a baseball diamond. Instead, we get a boy’s-eye tour of the stouthearted, unschooled, and often tumescent folks who scratch out a living in the middle of their particular nowhere. We meet such vivid types as Edytha Rasmussen Bozniak, an arrogant woman who leaves town briefly to disguise the illegitimacy of her daughter, and Hopfstadt, a solitary German immigrant who builds exquisite kitchen cabinets for a home-country fiancee who never joins him. And we experience the modest social whirl of a drunken wedding, a gossipy whist party, and, of course, a misguided box social. This may not be the same prairie that Garrison Keillor has measured, but it offers the same kind of companionship. Box Socials can be as awkward as the people it describes, but, like them, it has a good heart. B-