Hoosiers, anyone? – “Blind Your Ponies” by Stanley Gordon West
If you’ve seen a fair amount of movies, the plot of Stanley Gordon West’s “Blind Your Ponies,” won’t come as much of a surprise – a small, run-down town pins their hopes on their basketball team, despite the team’s losing record.
Will the addition of a new player (a nearly seven-foot tall exchange student) lead the team to win the State Championship after so many years of being such losers?
I’m not going to spoil the ending, though I bet you won’t have to guess too hard.
(You’ve seen “Hoosiers,” right?)
“Blind Your Ponies” starts off well, really. I was truly interested for about the first half of the book, as the characters of Willow Creek, Montana are introduced. There are some teachers, some students, and a couple of colorful local characters that caught my attention.
However, things go awry before too long.
It’s as if every character in this book has a tragic backstory, which they feel the need to earnestly express to another character in the book. One teacher, an animal activist, swerved to avoid hitting an animal on the road while driving, and wound up rolling her car and killing her daughter. A student had a horse he loved, until the students drunk dad forgot to load the horse into the trailer and wound up dragging the horse down the highway all the way home. A wacky Grandmother who’s missing a hand lost her appendage when her husband handcuffed her to go out to a bar, then forgot he’d done it until the next morning. The basketball coach’s wife got shot in a fast food restaurant.
I mean, I get that life is tough, but geez.
The book isn’t flat-out bad. There’s a lot of good stuff going on here, but it’s outshone by the dump truck full of cliches that’s dumped on top of every page. Even the characters you really care about – like the wacky Grandmother I mentioned above (easily the most endearing character in the book) conveniently gets sick just in time for the big championship. Of course, the lonely basketball coach and the lonely (and hot) biology teacher fall in love.
Stanley Gordon West made a valiant effort to paint a portrait of small-town hopes and dreams. He nearly succeeds, too. That’s part of the shame of the novel. It could have been so much more, but the author relies too much on things we’ve seen and read before.