When The Men Were Gone by Marjorie Herrera Lewis

Marjorie Herrera Lewis’ brilliant debut is a novelization of the true story of Tylene Wilson, a high school teacher who defies the mid-Texas norms to take over coaching a ragtag group of young football players at the height of World War II. Facing opposition at every point, Wilson’s charging enthusiasm inspired every member of the community to reinvigorate the Friday Night Lights during some of the darkest hours of our nation, and in turn, brings together a community in ways that no one ever thought possible. 

Lewis’ prose is breezy and tight. The story canters at an energetic pace, and it easily feels like Hollywood is calling this novel to the big screen. It brings together some regular tropes, summoning Campbell’s hero’s journey and the three-act-structure in a way that is tremendously satisfying to experience. As a debut, it is masterful. The narrative, characterization, and tremendous amount of research that had to go into writing about the people of this community at this time allows the audience to feel the vibrancy come to life and rebuild the people of 1944 Brownwood. Even more exciting was that this is probably the first historical fiction sports novel that I have ever read – I am not a huge fan of sports whatsoever – and I was riveted. Three sittings, and I was finished. It was a pleasure to read, and I look forward to much, much more from Lewis in the future.  

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