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4.5 16
by Nanci Kincaid

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Dixie's in love with Mac. Mac is in love with football. And football, as every red-blooded Southern man and woman knows, is the most jealous mistress of all....In Nanci Kincaid's stunning new novel, the rise and fall of a big-time college football coach is chronicled by the women in his life: his pretty, easily underestimated wife, his hot-tempered daughter, his


Dixie's in love with Mac. Mac is in love with football. And football, as every red-blooded Southern man and woman knows, is the most jealous mistress of all....In Nanci Kincaid's stunning new novel, the rise and fall of a big-time college football coach is chronicled by the women in his life: his pretty, easily underestimated wife, his hot-tempered daughter, his God-fearing mother, and an unforgettable cast of players' girlfriends and other men's wives. And while Mac's fortunes are tied to the sport he loves, his women are busy making choices and plans of their own. Until the game on the field, with all its heroic feats, tragic twists, and roaring crowds, is overshadowed by the game played behind closed doors: where a good man risks losing a good woman to the call of her own heart.

Editorial Reviews

Erica Sanders
. . .[D]espite its drolly macho title, Balls is about women and marriage as much as . . .a college football recruiting scandal. . . .Kincaid cleverly mines the small moments. . . .[However, though] painstakingly developed, the characters do not have enough to except watch and talk.
New York Times Book Review
Phoebe-Lou Adams
. . .The tale eventually becomes monotonous, because the ball game always wins.
The Atlantic Monthly
Rhonda Johnson
. . .[T]he real interest here is in the coach's complex (and often corrupt) relationships with his players and with the team boosters. . .
Entertainment Weekly
Nanci Kincaid's exuberant female characters...seduce with bouncy charm and then -- thwack -- come at you from left field with gritty insights about life and love.
Library Journal
Kincaid (Pretending the Bed Is a Raft, LJ 9/1/97) scores another touchdown with this funny, entertaining novel about college football coaches and the women who love them. Set in Alabama, a fanatical football state where the late legendary Paul "Bear" Bryant is still worshipped, the plot focuses on the marriage of Dixie Carraway, an ex-homecoming queen, to Mac Gibbs, a former college quarterback. Narrated alternately by Dixie; her mother, Rose; Dixie's best friend, Frances Delmar; and a range of other vividly drawn female characters, the novel traces Dixie's transformation from young, adoring wife of a high-school football coach into a mature, independent woman disillusioned by the "win-at-any-cost" attitude of big-time college sports. Twice married to coaches, Kincaid knows her Southern football culture thoroughly. ("Alabama likes old coaches better than young ones. If a coach has at least one brother sent to prison, that really helps.") Despite some fumbles (a few minor narrators could have been cut), the novel's warm humor and eccentric characters, so reminiscent of Lee Smith, kicks this into the winning end zone.--Wilda Williams, "Library Journal"
Cynthia Sanz
. . .Sixteen characters take turns as narrator. . .[making] for a choppy read. But thanks to great Southern details . . .and characters so believable you cna hear them drawl, Kincaid finds daylight. -- People Magazine
Phoebe-Lou Adams
. . .[T]he tale eventually becomes monotonous, because the ball game always wins. -- The Atlantic Monthly
Kirkus Reviews
Kincaid's relaxed and folksy second novel (after Crossing Blood, and a story collection, Pretending the Bed Is a Raft) chronicles in their own words the variously impoverished lives of women who love men who love football. In brief chapters narrated by a dozen or more such women, Kincaid explores the gradually raised consciousness of Dixie Carraway, a virginal Alabama innocent who marries football star Mac Gibbs, lives through his embattled coaching tenure at fictional Birmingham University ('Ham U.'), and, to her own surprise, matures into an independent woman who can live without her handsome hero or her inherited ladylike behavior. Dixie's 'testimony' is primary, though there are significant contributions from her mother Rose, placid mother-in-law Millie, feisty girlfriend Frances, and her family's black hired woman Lilly Brown (whose son Jett earns the pro career denied the modestly gifted Mac). Other narrators—mothers, wives, children, or sweethearts of marketable athletes or befuddled coaching personnel—add their own perspectives to the (alas, trite) story of Mac's stand against racism (he starts a black quarterback, arousing the local KKK), his submission to the virtually universal practice of recruiting violations, and the loss of his prestigious career and treasured marriage. Kincaid handles this rather pulpy material more-or-less evenhandedly. Mac is anything but an insensitive macho male (in fact, he's too good to be true); and Dixie's nervous soul-searching gets on your nerves (especially when her efforts to understand Mac's preoccupation lead her to such insights as 'Football is testosterone-driven art. Football makes me rethink beauty.' Fortunately,Kincaid's forte—gritty, down-to-earth dialogue—dominates the novel, saving it from its worst miscalculations. She's equally convincing with bored housewives and dirty-minded good ole boys. Nothing new here, then, but another engaging demonstration of Kincaid's high-spirited affection for her agreeable characters.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

It was not by accident that God created the world in the shape of a ball. I came to understand that early. All the men in my life imitated God in this way by making small worlds of their own out of balls. I never knew boys who dreamed of building skyscrapers, or campaigning for justice, or making music, or scalpeling into human flesh to repair hearts. Nothing like that. The boys I knew dreamed of one thing--balls. Getting them across the goal line, pitching them over the plate, sinking them in the hoop, putting them into the hole.

As a girl, when I watched men pass the pigskin, pitch the curveball, perfect the jump shot, I understood that they were playing war. What I didn't understand was that it wasn't just a stupid ball they held in their hands, but the whole world being tossed about from man to man--like a game of keep away.

From me.

--Dixie Gibbs, 1998


The first time Mac opened one button on my blouse and touched my breast I thought it was a moment of genius. I think it must have been the way America felt when Columbus discovered it.

Even now, even though we're officially engaged, we still park up by the Vulcan on that road Mac knows, because of that time Rose caught Mac in my room and went crazy--and we weren't even doing anything but lying there talking--I mean crazy like a lunatic who belonged in an insane asylum, which I don't know if I will ever forgive her for or not, and she had on that see-through nightgown too, her nipples bouncing like two polka dots under there. Since then, we don't have any place much to go where we can be alone together. Except Mac's car, which sort of automatically veers up toward the Vulcan now.

"You are so sweet, Dixie Carraway, I could just eat you up," Mac says. It's not an original thing to say. It's whet people say to babies, but he sincerely means it. In the last couple of years Mac has named his top lip Lewis and his bottom lip Clark because he says they are such a hell of a pair of explorers. They are too. He's like a man lip-led. Our mouths have taken over all other aspects of our love, like we are two infants in the world of passion--tasting, biting. I love that word, passion. It makes me think of a vine-ripened tomato on the hottest day of the year that last second before the skin splits open and the pulp oozes out. That fleshy red. All those little seeds.

Mac goes crazy if I suck his finger. You wouldn't think a little thing like sucking a finger could do to a guy what it does to Mac. But I don't just suck it, I really make it interesting, you know. I've developed what you might call technique. I just love what mouths can do--that the place that makes the words is also the place that makes the kisses. I watch him watch me while I suck his finger. For those few minutes it's like I rule the world. I mean if I said, "Mac, go run into that burning building," I think he'd actually consider it.

Before Mac, Daddy was mean to boys who came around me. He was rude. Rose was never rude and it really irritated her for Daddy to be--but too bad. Daddy was always telling boys it was time for them to go home, and no, I could not drive down to the shopping center with them. No, I couldn't go to the late movie. No, I couldn't go to the drive-in. No. No. No. Maybe that's where I developed my appreciation for the power of the word no.

But as soon as Mac came along, Daddy just sort of changed his tune. Sure, Mac could take me to the drive-in. Sure I could drive over to Tuscaloosa with Mac to see a basketball game. If it had to do with Mac, Daddy was in favor of it. I love Daddy and all, but the truth is this has never set right with me.

Since Daddy abandoned his fatherly patrol it has become my job to patrol things. I think I do it as well as any girl I can name who is fully human. Saying no is hard work. It can wear you out. As young as I am I'm already practically exhausted. No. No. No. God, how Mac loves hearing me say that word. Just the word itself seems to transform me into an angel and send me flying around in some heavenly sphere in his mind. Lucky for me no is Mac's favorite word. That's the kind of boy he is.

What People are Saying About This

Willie Morris
Balls is sad, funny, honest -- and one of the best novels ever written about college football. But this sumptuous roman a clef is about more than that: love, marriage, sex, race, corruption, all set in a vivid milieu where Saturday is the holy day.

Meet the Author

Nanci Kincaid is the author of two previous novels, Crossing Blood and Balls, and a collection of short stories, Pretending the Bed Is a Raft. She lives in Hawaii with her husband. They have four grown children.

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Balls 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was an easy read. Not the best story I ever read but I enjoyed it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
C c f
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Rainbow: oh come on! I have a soccer game to go to! Purple and white: no you promised. Now we will stay. Rainbow: grrrrr!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
*sits down*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
YOURE ALL PEASANTS *he huffs a sigh and drags Swag out*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
*Turns into Jordan.* Hel<_>lr. *Grins.*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Smiles at Ashley. Do you want to dance then?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Waits for someone to ask her to dance
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mouse rp at under the bush they are having a dinner party!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Goes to a seperate room and comes out in usual Dauntless Gear. "This isnt as fun as I expected. And with everyone ignoring me, theres no hope for me to pull of a prank. Pooh. Well, bai everyone!" Runs out jumping from high to high places to Dauntless.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Goes there
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She sighed and left.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Which Ashley are you talking about? Where do you know me from? There are like three Ashleys."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I ish out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Humming Teenage Wasteland, she twirls around on the ballroom floor.