Soccer books: Cup runneth over

Soccer books: Cup runneth over

Soccer has finally made it in the U.S. While the rest of the world is full of rabid fans for the game they call football, or futbol, it has been slow to catch on in America. Maybe it's the proliferation of other sports and recreational activities. I'm not sure, but I've always been a soccer fan. My siblings all played in league soccer, and it seems like most weekends we were at one game or another.

Although typically low scoring, the game is fast and requires an incredible amount of physical prowess and intricate ball-handling skills.

This past week, record viewership was reached by people watching the U.S. games on ESPN and Univision, reaching higher numbers than the World Series. I thought it was time to look at some books featuring the world's most popular sport. We have quite a few non-fiction books that discuss the stars and games of World Cup soccer. You can find most of these in the 796.3346 area.

However, today I'd like to share some fiction books that take place at the World Cup or may just have a soccer plot line.

The first is "The Sun and Other Stars" by Brigid Pasulka. Taking place in the seaside village of San Benedetto, Italy, main character Etto feels lost in the world. At 22 years old, he works at his dad's butcher shop during the day but struggles to find peace in the wake of the deaths of his twin brother and his mother.

His father is a soccer fanatic, finding it to be the only thing for which he still feels passion. Etto was never the favored son, preferring to spend time at museums rather than soccer fields, and their relationship is strained. While spending time alone in the surrounding hills, Etto meets a Ukrainian soccer star, the great Yuri Fil, who is also taking refuge from life before the beginning of World Cup season. Soon Yuri and his delightful sister Zhuki invite Etto into their world of sport and celebrity, and Etto suddenly begins to feel alive again.

This was a beautifully written tale of families and community and turns into a coming-of-age story as Etto finds his way beyond grief and resentment to a place where loss can turn into hope.

One of my favorite quotes from the book is: "The words we said are still teetering precariously on top of one another, and I think neither of us wants to be the one to pile on the wrong word and upset the balance."

This is the author's second book and is definitely someone to watch in the future.

In "A Vine in the Blood" by Leighton Gage, the star Brazilian soccer player known as "the Artist" wakes just 13 days before the World Cup to find out his mother has been kidnapped. A nationwide manhunt begins as the people of Brazil are in a frenzy to solve this disruption so that their star player can focus on the game. Exceptionally skilled at the game of futbol, he is a mess when it comes to his mother.

Understandably, the minister of justice has taken a personal interest in the case and is putting pressure on the federal police to solve it as quickly as possible. Wanting results fast, he assigns Chief Inspector Mario Silva to head the investigation. With humorous banter and situations throughout, the plot becomes convoluted as Silva and his team believe the crime is relatively straightforward, but the press promotes theories that are more complicated and elaborate — more fitting to a national superstar.

The pace of the story is steady and rhythmic until the fans and media are whipped into a frenzy of excitement, and it's up to Mario Silva to find "The Artist's" mother — in 13 days. This is the fifth book in the Mario Silva series, but they do not necessarily have to be read in order.

On a lighter note, I found a paperback series by Jeffrey Allen about a stay-at-home dad and his trials and tribulations. He also happens to be a part-time detective. The second book, "Popped Off," takes the lead character, dad Deuce Winters, to his daughter's soccer game.

In the cutthroat world of recreational soccer in this small Texas town, the king is Moises Huber. And one day, he ends up missing — along with $73,000 in registration fees. Deuce is asked to take the case, along with his amusingly annoyed partner, Victor. What they find leads them on a winding and hilarious trail through gambling rings, the local mega-church and a college sorority. The book is light-hearted fun and kept me giggling through the quick read.

Soccer is big right now people. Choose your team, watch some games and get caught up in the action with these entertaining novels.

Kelly Strom is the collection manager at the Champaign Public Library. She orders books, magazines, newspapers, audiobooks and CDs.

Topics (1):Books