The following review consists of sentences lifted in full, yet recombined and out of context, from In These Girls, Hope Is a Muscle by Madeleine Blais. The book documents the inspiring 1992–1993 season played by the Lady Hurricanes, a high-school basketball team in Amherst, Massachusetts. Our intrepid book reviewer loved it for several reasons. This review documents the struggle between amazing real-life achievement and the bizarre verbiage of Madeleine Blais.
Emily is a popular name, especially in Amherst, not just for its music but also its pedigree. The bus, boisterous in its very bigness, moved past the red-bricked Dickinson homestead with its top-heavy trees, tall and thin with a crown of green: We're Somebody! Who are you? Jen and Jamila were not the first females in Amherst to be known simply by their first names. They came from a town that prized tofu, not toughness. Would they wear heels as a concession to fashion?
The dance, the arc, the swoosh. Other teams would look up, expecting to be able to make the pass they made at practice a thousand times in their own gym, only to find Jen Pariseau in the way, all elbows, arms, incredible leaping skills, and riverboat gambler's hands. Coach Moyer folded his arms in front of him. "Ladies, it's showtime." Furnaces were checked, windows caulked, chimneys examined for creosote, mittens matched. As the Hurricanes hurried to the idling cars driven by parents who often coordinated pickup with the end of their work day, the darkness was thick, almost molecular.
"Would Emily Dickinson be a potential Hurricane if she were alive today?" Men plan escapes, the most benign of which involve golf. If Ron Moyer has a streak of hubris, it's his pride in his sense of humor. Or trailing his mother and her wagon filled with its crocheted hope for betterment. As time went on, he had developed the domesticated swagger of a small-town mayor. He saw them throwing themselves on the floor for loose balls and slamming into each other in an unladylike fashion.
The seasons in New England give a focus to time the way a tent with bright stripes focuses a garden party. She hesitated for a moment, as if to get her bearings, and then pushed forward, faster and faster, not frantic, but almost. Although she was dazzling, she was also doomed. I was left wanting to throw myself in front of the doors, to refuse to let the crowd leave. "It doesn't bother me if there's a scar," said Emily, who looked as if she might actually welcome the badge in it. Rita Powell owned the innate good cheer that seems to attach to people who can sing.
Their lives, like the map of Massachusetts in which the center had been seized to create the Quabbin Reservoir, had been punched in the middle. The setting was more fetching, but the emptiness was as real as on an urban street corner. Four minutes and fifteen seconds into the game, when the score was 11–5, the action stopped completely and an uproar ensued, underscored by the arrival of someone in a fluffy pink gorilla suit and a bouquet of balloons. Teenagers who don't want to discuss something with their parents are like those guard walls in Third World countries topped with shards of glass.
Did they have what it takes, these sweet-looking girls reared in maple-syrup country? Kim had grown up in South Amherst in a small well-cared-for starter house that ended up a finish house as well. You'd go see Kiss Me, Kate at the high school under clear skies at seven-thirty, and three hours later the powder was so thick that even Volvos, clunky and wistful in their promise of immortality, littered the perimeters of the country roads. Time was fat like a cow basking in the sun. "It's not the headlines, not the fans cheering. It's seeing your breath."
"Holy shit! We're the fucking champions!" From Jen's point of view, the verbal nod, buried in the hot lights and the whir of the cameras, lost to most people amid the outpouring of congratulations, was like one of those random chimneys in the woods. And as the two girls proceeded off the court, the guys stood in the distance still scratching their heads, with dazed expressions, calling out, with a final effort to figure out what had just hit them, in muted pleading voices, an unwitting echo of the reclusive poet in white, "Who are you? Who are you?"