Last summer, Quinnen was the star pitcher of her baseball team, the Panthers. They’re headed for the championship, and her loudest supporter at every game was her best friend and older sister, Haley.
This summer, everything is different. Haley’s death, at the end of last summer, has left Quinnen and her parents reeling. Without Haley in the stands, Quinnen doesn’t want to play baseball. It seems like nothing can fill the Haley-sized hole in her world. The one glimmer of happiness comes from the Bandits, the local minor-league baseball team. For the first time, Quinnen and her family are hosting one of the players for the season. Without Haley, Quinnen’s not sure it will be any fun, but soon she befriends a few players. With their help, can she make peace with the past and return to the pitcher’s mound?
Title: The Distance to Home
Author: Jenn Bishop
Publication date: June 28, 2016
I received The Distance to Home from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
I requested this book because BASEBALL. That’s pretty much all I needed to know and if I had read the synopsis more carefully I might have been scared away because death = crying and I don’t do crying books. This time it worked in my favor because I loved this book!
The Distance to Home is told entirely in Quinnen’s point of view but chapters alternate between this summer and last summer. Last summer, Quinnen felt like she was, in a way, losing her best friend because Haley had a boyfriend Quinnen barely knew, a boy from another town. It was hard for me to relate to Haley and Quinnen’s relationship because I had trouble getting over the age difference. Six years is a lot when you’re growing up. Haley was in middle school when Quinnen was learning to add and subtract. I don’t doubt that Haley loved Quinnen (WHY can’t she just be named Quinn?), but I wondered if Haley at 16 considered her 10 year old sister her best friend, the way Quinnen did. But I can only speak from my own experience and I realize and others might have a different experience. I was always closer to my sister two years younger than the one four years younger. Six years…that’s a lot. Maybe it’s different when there are only two of you, or maybe that’s just Haley and Quinnen’s experience.
This summer, Haley is dead and the family is still trying to cope. Quinnen, one of two girls on her baseball team last year isn’t even playing this year. She has always wanted to host a minor league baseball player from the team in their town. The players in single A don’t make much, so they stay with local families. I wondered about this, so I Googled and found out that many players at that level earn $1500 a month — or less. The residents of the town are generous enough to open their homes to Bandits players, and this year Quinnen’s parents have decided to host one. It should be a lot more exciting than it is, but nothing is the same without Haley — and the player her family gets isn’t quite what she expected.
I don’t usually like books (or TV shows) with flashbacks, but the technique didn’t bother me a bit in The Distance to Home. I was equally interested in last summer leading up to Haley’s death as I was in this summer. The two summers tied together nicely, with the events of last summer obviously having a huge impact on this summer. I liked getting to know Haley (from Quinnen’s perspective), something that would have been missing without the last summer chapters.
There’s a lot of baseball in this book, which was great for me. Quinnen and her friend Casey spend time with some of the Bandits and go to most of the games together. One of the Bandits in particular goes out of his way to connect with Quinnen. He’s a great guy and I hope that in his fictional world, he makes it to the majors and becomes a star. There’s a hilarious scene set at the ballpark involving someone dressed as a slice of pizza that probably should have been more sad than funny, but it made me laugh. A lot.
The Distance to Home is set far enough past Haley’s death so that not everything in Quinnen’s life is sad. She’s still carrying around a lot of grief and guilt, but she’s able to laugh, to be interested in things again. No one will ever replace Haley, but Quinnen’s learning to live without her.