Monday, September 13, 2010

Book Review of Opur's Blade by James Ross

Title of Document: Book Review
Book Title: Opur’s Blade
Author: James Ross
ISBN: 978-1-9334-4987-6
Publisher: Nightengale Press
Genre and Target Market: fiction, human drama, sports
Publication Date: 2010
Book Length in Pages: 465

Book Review by Sarah Moore

For the first time in my experience working in the writing and publishing industry, I have had the opportunity to read and review four books from the same author. It is such a pleasure to see the evolution of a writer’s style and message, especially when they are developed in books I have enjoyed so much. After spending hours and hundreds of pages with the work of James Ross, I have an ever-growing sense of his overarching commentary about how we relate to one another and the expectations that we place on people based on stereotypes or superficial characteristics. As with his previous three novels, in his new release, Opur’s Blade, Ross offers us his view through the prism of golf and the background of the Prairie Winds Golf Course.

Opur’s Blade tells the story of Owen Purler, Jr., a preteen boy who is raised by single mother Raylene after his dad, whose job as a trucker never had him around much anyway, leaves the home for good. Owen struggles with self-esteem and an accompanying stuttering problem until Raylene takes him to the Prairie Winds Golf Course to take advantage of free summer lessons. After only a few minutes of hitting balls with old clubs found in storage, club pro J Dub Schroeder realizes that Owen, whose names are combined by the regulars in the clubhouse to form the nickname Opur, has an amazing talent for the game.

While Ross always develops his storylines around the backdrop of golf, Opur’s Blade focuses more detail on the execution of the sport than all of his other three novels combined. Nearly half of the pages in the novel are dedicated to Opur’s participation as an unlikely contender in the most prestigious of all golf tournaments—The Classic. Ross takes his readers through the mechanics of the play and the rollercoaster emotions at every hole, as the championship title comes down to the underdog Opur and Tank Olgethorpe, a past champion who carries all of the bravado and fan support that a celebrity would expect to have. Through his writing, Ross displays an obvious expert knowledge of the game, both from a player’s perspective and for those who love to watch the drama unfold from the viewing areas or on their television screens. Readers who are avid about the sport of golf will find wonderful content to meet their interest in Opur’s Blade.

This is not to say that fans of Ross who follow his work for its characters and social commentary will be left out due to a more dominant focus on golf. Instead, I believe that this may be Ross’ most compelling and focused work yet in terms of its character development and richness in exploring human relationships. As I progressed through Opur’s Blade, I found myself rooting for Opur as he struggled to overcome a troubled and lonely childhood and eventually find his way onto the biggest stage in golf. James Ross offers the relationship I formed with Opur to all of his readers by creating a young man who is determined, optimistic, but also, like the rest of us, flawed in character. We all have been the underdog at some point in our lives, and it is wonderful to read such a touching story about someone who succeeds in spite of having the odds stacked against him.

If you have read James Ross’ previous novels, Lifetime Loser, Finish Line, and Tuey’s Course, then you already are familiar with his detailed and vibrant writing style and I have no doubt that you will find the same literary satisfaction in reading Opur’s Blade. If you are new to Ross’ work, you do not need to return to his other books in order to enjoy this new release. But, I imagine that you will want to read the earlier books that take place at Prairie Winds Golf Course once you have finished Opur’s Blade. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves golf, a great underdog story, or a thoughtful examination of the fight that exists in every human spirit.

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