Mark Warren has what seems to be an enviable life. He has a good family, he's the star pitcher of his high school baseball team, and he has a new girlfriend named Diane. But then Dad gets a phone call: He sits to tell us/words tossed out like fly balls/ tumor cancer spread. Mark's world changes at that moment when his father finds out that his pancreatic cancer has spread. And yet, so much doesn't seem to be any different. I think there's some-/thing wrong with my/eyes everything looks/the same .../Don't they know/everything is changed?/That I'll never be the same? Mark comes to understand there's no road map for death and says, I am terrified/of the time/when I touch him/and he won't touch me/back. Like most novels in verse, Ann Turner's Hard Hit is best read in one big gulp to absorb the rhythms of the verse and the subtleties of Mark's coming to terms with the impending loss of a beloved father. The images are fresh and immediate. Mark and his friend Eddie go out for target practice, shooting at cans: click the trigger, gun kicks/each one/high /Sick!/Tumor!Growing! The simple, elemental lines of Turner's free verse novel are the perfect match for the stark subject matter the questioning, the wonder, the loneliness. There are no easy answers, no comfortable philosophizing, just a teenaged boy living his life as his father is losing his. If there is any help for Mark, it is in the web of his life that goes on: his sister and mother, Diane, Eddie, school, baseball, memories of his Dad in the garden working the earth, Dad with the telescope saying, We're made from stars. And the wrenching scene: Dad?/I pitched a no-hitter! /The damnedest thing, he opened/his eyes and said, Good boy,/Marky, you always were a good boy! As in her Learning to Swim, Turner has fashioned a gem of a novel about a tough subject. Her transcendent poetry deals with matters of life and death, family and friends, the earth and the stars.

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