Last Days of Summer

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May 15, 1940

Charlie Banks

New York Giants

Polo Grounds, New ...

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May 15, 1940

Charlie Banks

New York Giants

Polo Grounds, New York

Dear Mr. Banks:

I am a 12-year-old boy and I am dying from malaria. Please hit a home run for me because I don't think I will be around much longer.

Your friend,

Joey Margolis

Dear Kid:

Last week it was the plague. Now it's malaria. What do I look - stupid to you? Your lucky I don't send somebody over there to tap you on the conk. I am inclosing 1 last picture. Do not write to me again.

Chase. Banks

3d Base

Dear Charlie:

Nobody asked for your damn picture. I never even heard of you before. And you can forget about the home run too. The only reason I needed one was because the bullies who keep beating me up somehow thought you were my best friend and the homer was supposed to keep them from slugging me anymore. Thanks for nothing.

Can I go on a road trip with you?

Your arch enemy,

Joey Nargolis

Dear Joey:

"Somehow" they thought I was your best friend? Where did they hear that from? A Nazi spy? J. Herbert Hoover? Franklin Delano Biscuithead? And didn't I tell you not to write to me anymore? Go bug DiMaggio.


P.S. And just because there's a spot open for a bat boy this summer doesn't mean your going to get it. Even if we ARE chips off the same block.

"Funny...sentimental and of the most pleasant suprises of this publishing year." (— Parade)

"A poignant, golden of one boys's lost innocence." (— Publishers Weekly )

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Mixing nostalgia, baseball and a boy's mostly epistolary friendship with a 1940s baseball star, this inventive but sentimental novel consists entirely of letters, fictional newspaper clippings, telegrams, war dispatches, report cards and other documentary fragments. Growing up Jewish in a tough, Italian Brooklyn neighborhood, Joey Margolis is troubled by anti-Semitic neighbors, by Hitler's rising power, by his parents' divorce and by his absent cad of a father. Craving a surrogate dad, Joey strikes up a correspondence with Wisconsin-born New York Giants slugger Charlie Banks. The boy's outrageous fibs, tough-guy posturing and desperate pleas grab the reluctant attention of the superstar, whose racy vernacular guy-talk peppered with amusing misspellings and misusages hints at his deepening affection for Joey. Charlie is a politically enlightened proletarian ballplayer with a heart of gold. His liberal views find an echo in Joey, whose best friend, Japanese-American Craig Nakamura, gets shipped off with his family to a wartime internment camp. In a plot that swerves from Joey's Bar Mitzvah to a White House meeting with President Roosevelt to a tearjerking climax, Kluger keeps changing the pace and piles on a slew of period references with a heavy hand. Despite these flaws, this debut novel is at its best a poignant, golden evocation of one boy's lost innocence. Author tour. June
Library Journal
Steve Kluger uses letters, newspaper clippings, war bulletins, and report cards to tell the delightfully quirky story of 12-year-old Joey Margolis. Growing up in 1940s Brooklyn, Joey is "a real pip," sending memos to Franklin D. Roosevelt advising on foreign policy and "Top Secret" missives to The Green Hornet, a.k.a. his best friend, Craig Nakamura. Joey's letter-writing leads to an unlikely friendship with his sports hero, New York Giants rookie third baseman Charlie Banks. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The late Ring Lardner might just be reading now over our shoulders, for Klugerþs epistolary novel of 1940s Brooklyn baseball is right up his genre. And if he were reading it, Lardner would likely have these admiring words to say about Klugerþs creation of the character of New York Giants third baseman Charlie Banks, who is a pen pal of the very young Brooklynite Joey Margolis: þSo you mussle in on my turf, the baseball novel of letters, when you know itþs my ballpark. But I'm not bitter just because you create a nice guy in Charlie Banks, while Jack Keefe in my novel You Know Me, Al is a braggart and egotist who the reader despairs of. And Chas. Banksþ loudmouth correspondent Joey Margolis is a little heart-tugger, too. Okay, I pretty much play on one string throughout, while you hit some bigger chords, like war and the Depression and that chowderhead FDR. Well, back in 1915 when my novel was wrote, I didn't have any world wars to wring my readersþ hearts with. You give a swell sense of Brooklyn in the late thirties and after, and I very much enjoy the cards sent between Joey, better known as The Shadow, and his upstairs neighbor Craig Nakamura. I suppose what stands out is your variety in a story told entirely through letters, postcards, report cards, baseball scorecards, Winchell columns, letters from FDR, and big written sighs of disappointment from Joeyþs rabbi and his disgusted homeroom teacher, with no author seemingly on hand. And Iþll admit itþs clever how you get the reader to empathize with this jocko 3rd baseman Joey idolizes.þ And Lardner would have reason to conclude: þIt hurts, but I got to say youwrite good and do well in the tears department. I feel honored by having inspired you. The hardest part is over, fella, aside from the reviews.þ
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780380976454
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/1/1998
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 5.12 (w) x 7.00 (h) x 1.17 (d)

Meet the Author

Steve Kluger has written extensively on subjects as far-ranging as World War II, rock 'n' roll, and the Titanic, and as close to the heart as baseball and the Boston Red Sox. He lives in Santa Monica, California.

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Read an Excerpt


The White House

November 26,1936

Dear Joseph:

Please allow me to express my deepest gratitude for the dollar you contributed to my campaign. Although I have indeed considered lowering the voting age as you suggest, I am afraid I would have to draw the line at eighteen. Nine is out of the question. I wish it weren't. In any event, I am touched by your support.

Mrs. Roosevelt joins me in thanking you for your kind words. I hope that the next four years will justify your continued faith in us.

Yours very truly,

Franklin D. Roosevelt

It's funny how the years have changed everything about Brooklyn geography. Time was when uptown meant Nathan's — if you were in the mood for an orange pop, a neurotic hot dog, and some front-line scuttlebut from a lonesome GI — or the old Paramount, where Veronica Lake once sold war bonds and kisses, and nearly financed the entire Normandy invasion herself. The business district was really the Citizen-News building, where if you hung around long enough and practiced your eavesdropping you might learn that Bataan wasn't just the name of a movie; and downtown, of course, was Flatbush, where on the Fourth of July the 433rd Infantry marched from Grand Army Plaza to Anzio with only an Irving Berlin cadence pointing them in the right direction.

Slugger Banks Whips Iowa City 5-0

Springfield, Ill., May 14 — Nineteen-year-old rookie sensation Charlie Banks propelled theSpringfield Bluejackets to an easy win over Iowa City here, with a solo haymaker in the second inning and a slammer at the bottom of the eighth. The volatile third baseman has become something of a local legend since early April, when he failed to make the squad cut during tryouts but was issued a uniform regardless after refusing to get off the team bus.

Brooklyn is where I grew up. It's where I learned what a storm trooper was, what an egg cream was, what "flak attack" meant, and what rubbers were used for outside of keeping your feet dry. It's where I discovered the true market value of a steelie versus an aggie and the queasy sounds your stomach made whenever you saw a hundred thousand hobnail boots goose-stepping through the Pathé News. It's where any kid could tell you that "Captain Colin Kelly shot a tiger in the belly, then he sent the ship Haruna to the bottom of the sea" but not know the capital of Michigan. It's where the nearest you were likely to get to heaven was smelling the popcorn at Luna Park, or seeing a real-life Dauntless dive-bomber — blue with white trim — taking off from the Navy Yard, or falling asleep with your blackout curtains drawn tight while Glenn Miller played "Moonlight Serenade" over the radio, live from the still waters of the Glen Island Casino ("mecca of music for moderns"). Brooklyn is also where I learned that I was a kike, that my second-to-best-friend was a Nip, and that my father was never coming back home.

"Nana Bert, is my Dad there?"
"He's busy, dear. We're going to Monte Carlo, but with all those Germans, you can't get a reservation. Call him after the eighteenth."

Banks Downed by Food Poisoning;
Goes 5-For-6

JOPLIN, Mo., June 24 — The Racine Rocket lost his bid for 38 consecutive hits this afternoon when an attack of food poisoning brought about by a tin of tainted anchovies caused him to ground into a double play against Joplin in the eleventh inning after having hit safely in his first five at-bats.
"I thought they were sardines," mumbled a sheepish Banks as he was carried off the field with a fever of 104. Asked where he had learned such stamina, the nineteen-year-old third-sacker retorted, "In the 3 C's [Civilian Conservation Corps]. Unless you were dead, you kept going."

After the divorce, my mother moved us from a largely Hasidic community in Williamsburg to an old brownstone at the corner of Bedford Avenue and Montgomery Street, where the mailboxes in the vestibule presaged the special fabric out of which my adolescence was to be woven. "Corelli. Verrastro. Fiore. Bierman. Di Cicco. Fusaro. Delvecchi. Margolis. "This told me all I needed to know. Of course, as the newly appointed resident Jew, I couldn't be entirely certain what recreational activities the neighborhood was willing to offer, but I had a pretty decent hunch that bleeding was among them. Not that my mom or my Aunt Carrie did much to promote my cause: they openly lit Shabos candles on San Gennaro Day, walked to shul through the Our Lady of Pompeii street festival, and helped feed the Italian-American War Widows with a tray of stuffed derma and potato knishes. The day we unpacked, I figured conservatively that I had a week left to live; one look at Lenny Bierman and I pared the estimate by half. But I was determined to fit in.
"Get it, Margolis? Sheenies walk on that side of the street.

Banks Clips Association's Top Tomato

Chicago, Ill., December 18 — On a ballot that surprised absolutely no one, the Midwestern Association today unanimously voted Charles Banks the 1937 Henry Chadwick Award, marking only the second time in the league's 61-year history that the honor has gone to a rookie. (Turkey Mike Donlin, in 1898, was the first.) Twenty-year-old Banks was notified via telegraph at his home in Racine, Wisconsin, and purportedly wired back, "Who in Hell is Henry Chadwick?" Springfield Bluejackets officials have turned down several lucrative offers for purchase of the rookie's contract, including a bid from the Brooklyn Dodgers which purportedly involved the

By the time I turned twelve, the Dodgers made me vomit. There was a popular misconception floating about the borough that they were lovable losers; for my money, one might just as easily have dispensed with the adjective altogether and developed a much clearer rotogravure of the truth. They had neither brains nor breeding — forgivable shortcomings in and of themselves if perhaps they had owned even one shred of talent. But they didn't have that either. What they had was a hartebeest at first named Dolph Camilli, a hop-o'-my-thumb at short they christened Pee Wee and thought it cunning, and something at third base called Cookie Lavagetto. Nobody had the balls to ask why. Then there was Craig Nakamura's idol, Leo Durocher, who plainly belonged behind bars-at a precinct house or an animal sanctuary, the need to distinguish was purely moot and predicated solely upon space availability. All things considered-and given the way my luck was running-about the last thing I needed was a bedroom window that overlooked Ebbets Field. And the only hurdy-gurdy in Flatbush.

Leave us go root for the Dodgers, Rodgers,
They're playing ball under lights.
Leave us cut out all the juke I jernts, Rodgers,
Them Dodgers is my gallant knights.

Of course, it never would have occurred to me that my father's lifelong passion for the damned team might have had something to do with my utter loathing for them; this, after all, was 1940, and we hadn't heard about pop psychology in those days. The only thing I knew for sure was that I wasn't going to be finding any heroes in Brooklyn. So I looked where I could-but the results were kind of disappointing.

The White House

February 14, 1940

Dear Joseph:

President Roosevelt has asked me to respond to your most recent letter, and to assure you that he, too, is keeping an eye on Denmark. No doubt you will understand that it is far too premature to consider arming the Royal Air Force as you suggest, although your reminders relative to the Lusitania are sobering indeed. In any event, I am sure the President will pass your recommendations on to Neville Chamberlain at his earliest convenience.

Stephen T. Early
Press Secretary

April 9, 1940. I have decided to turn to a life of crime. My dad was supposed to take me to Coney Island but he never called back, my left eye is black-and-blue again, the Japanese say they're only borrowing Nanking temporarily but nobody believes them, and Hitler is beginning to scare the holy heck out of me.

Last Days of Summer. Copyright © by Steve Kluger. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Reading Group Guide

About this Guide:
The questions, author biography and reading list that follow are intended to enhance your group's discussion of Last Days of Summer. We hope that they will provide you with new ways of looking at this "poignant, golden evocation of one boy's lost innocence." (Publishers Weekly)

About this Book:
Laced with nostalgia reminiscent of baseball's legends, Last Days of Summer is a story filled with emotion and leavened with humor about the small triumphs people can achieve by finding ways to connect with others.

Told in letters, notes, report cars, matchbook covers, postcards and telegrams, Last Days of Summer tells of the evolving relationship between two unlikely friends and an even more unlikely role model. A Jewish boy growing up in a tough Ital ian neighborhood, Joey Margolis lives with his mom and his elderly Aunt Carrie. Added to the regular beatings from neighborhood kids and other burdens weighing upon his young shoulders, he's troubled by Hitler's rising power, his parents' divorce, and an absent father who repeatedly lets him down. Craving a surrogate dad, Joey strikes up a correspondence with Charlie Banks, the third baseman for the New York Giants. That he does so by dint of persistently nagging Charlie sets the tone not just for their o ngoing correspondence but for a relationship that will change both their lives forever.

Praise for this Book:
"One of the most pleasant surprises of this publishing year." -Parade

"...Inventive...a plot that swerves from Joey's Bar Mitzvah to a White House meeting with President Roosevelt to a tearjerking climax...a poignant, goldenevocation of one boy's lost innocence." -Publishers Weekly

Questions for Discussion:
1. When we first meet Joey Margolis, he's clearly a bright and sensitive little boy, despite his tough-guy posturing. How does he use these two sides of his personality to pursue the relationship with Charlie?

2. Despite Joey's initial pursuit of Charlie Banks and the ballplayer's antagonistic response, Charlie could just as easily have continued to ignore Joey's letters. Why didn't he? What did he find compelling in them?

3. By November of 1940, Joey and Charlie are just about ready to call it quits. What changes Charlie's mind? What convinces Joey to toe the line?

4. Very early on, Joey has decided that he's going on a road trip with Charlie Banks. He also knows that it's going to be the most significant thing that will ever happen to him. And he's right. What turning point does he reach when he's on the road with Charlie? How does his life change permanently?

5. Baseball in the Forties was a far different game than it is today, and the world was a much different place. Could a story like Last Days of Summer take place in the present? How would it be different?

6. Shortly after Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, Craig Nakamura, his family, and 120,000 other Japanese-Americans are relocated to concentration camps. How likely is it that such a scenario could actually take place today?

7. Throughout the first part of the novel, Charlie becomes the father that Joey doesn't have. Yet shortly after the road trip, the roles begin to reverse. What are some examples of this change taking place? Who starts this process? How do both Joey and Ch arlie feel about the changes?

8. In Last Days of Summer Joey creates his own extended family. Who would you include on Joey's family tree? How would you define "family" as it means to the characters in this novel? 9. Knowing what we know about Charlie's own past, why doe s he eventually become so emotionally involved in Joey's life? What does he see in Joey?

10. We discover from the epilogue that Joseph Margolis has grown up to be a successful novelist and sportswriter, a devoted husband, and a loving father. How much of Joey's success would you attribute to his relationship with Charlie? Try to imagine how J oey's life might have turned out if he had never met Charlie Banks.

About the Author: Steve Kluger has written plays for the stage and for television. He has written extensively on subjects as far ranging as World War II, rock 'n' roll, the Titanic and the Boston Red Sox. He is the author of numerous screenplays, several works of nonfiction, including Yank: World War II From the Guys, and the novel Changing Pitches. He lives in Santa Monica California, is an avid baseball fan, and an active member of the Jewish Big Brothers. He has dedicated LAST DAYS OF SUMMER to his father.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 55 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 55 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2007

    My Favorite Book

    I have read alot of the B&N Classics series and I believe this book belongs up with them. This was recommened to me by my 6th grade science teacher and I have loved the book ever since. It is hilarious and dark, and I cry everytime at the end. Everytime you read it you really get into the characters minds with the creative style Kluger wrote this book with. With his use of checklists, letters, telegrams, and reports he makes this book jump out at you, and makes it stay there.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 28, 2012

    Highly Recommended!

    This is one of the best books I've ever read--probably my favorite. I love the way it's written through letters, notes, etc. It's clever, funny, and touching--there haven't been many books that have made me cry, but this one becomes personal.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 31, 2011

    One of my all-time FAVORITES!!!

    A wonderfully written book. The use of telegrams, handwritten letters, and notes from the teacher and principal to the parent to tell the story is so great! It will make you laugh out loud one page and break your heart the next. I love the intertwining of baseball, World War II, intolerance, heros, movie and broadway stars, and unconditional love to tell the story. Perfectly wonderful from the first word to the last!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 11, 2015

    This is probably the only book that I ever finished and then imm

    This is probably the only book that I ever finished and then immediately started over again. A wonderful tale of a boy and his (unexpected) father figure, it captures the humor and struggles of that kind of relationship. I recommend it highly.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2012

    My all time favorite book!

    I received this book from a friend not long after it came out. It remained on my bookshelf for the longest time until I picked it up and entered the quirky world of Joey. It is a roller coaster ride of childhood exhuberance tempered with the vulnerabilty of real life. I laughed so hard at Joey's antics and cried with him when his heart broke. I have read this book about ten times and yes it IS that GOOD of a book. Steve Kluger is an insightful story teller and is able to get you in touch with your inner Joey. I recommend this book often and it will remain my all time favorite book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2012

    It was an easy double,but then something happened...

    This book brings to life childlike arrogance and the power of persuasion. I am always drawn to stories told from the point of view of a child, and this extraordinary boy, Joey Margolis, weaseled his way into my heart with his perserverance and sheer desire to meet his childhood legend Charlie Banks. If you enjoy the boyish qualities of boys and men alike, toss in some baseball nostalgia and a dash of oldtime broadway, you'll cherish this delightful story and remarkable protagonist.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2012


    Amazing book. Read it.

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  • Posted June 10, 2011



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  • Posted October 4, 2010

    Oh my god, I loved this book.

    I bought it in hardcover when it first came out, devoured it, gave it to my daughter to read, and lost track of it. I laughed out loud, great belly laughs, and I wept ... what a poignant story of a kid and a baseball player. And so much more.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2008

    A reviewer

    Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger is a great book and touches on more topics than just baseball. It is set in the era of World War II. The novel is told with letters between the main character, Joey Margolis some victimized professional baseball players, workers at the Bureau of Vital Statistics, and even the president ¿ Although I have indeed considered lowering the voting age as you suggest, I am afraid I would have to draw the line at eighteen. Nine is out of the question'. It is also told throughout notes between Joey and his best friend Craig Nakamura aka The Green Hornet who spy on their neighbor because they think that she is a Nazi, and notes sent home from Joey's teacher to his mother. Joey sends multiple letters to his favorite baseball player, Charlie Banks, which say things such as: Please hit a homerun for me. I am dying of malaria. This book also teaches that family is not only blood and that anyone close to you could be considered family. This book had lots of humor and could be read by all, but I think it was meant for teens because the involvement of sports and the humor in the book is directed and would most likely be appreciated more by teens.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2007

    so funny, so touching, so start readin' already

    I read this book today and have not been touched like this, by a book, in ages. It was wonderful to get caught up in each of the characters. The format was an ingenious way of fleshing out the characters through words rather than actions.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2006

    an amazing book!

    This book was fantastic and amazing! it was so much fun to read. it made me laugh so hard and there are a lot of other emotions in this book. an amazing book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2006

    Wow, great read.

    You could easily read it in one day. I never laughed out loud so much reading a book. It is funny and poignant. A must read and a great Father's Day (grandfather) gift. I highly recommend it and have already passed it on and praised it to others. Don't hesitate, buy it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2006

    Great Entertainment!

    This book reminded me of the similarities of a Neil Simon story. I loved every moment of this book and could almost 'picture' the setting and characters depicted. Can't wait to see this produced as a play someday.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2006


    I loved the format and the story. This book brought laughter and, at the end, tears. I couldn't put it down...and you won't be able to, either. You don't have to love baseball,you just have to love a good story to enjoy this one. Read this book, you won't be disappointed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2005

    Gem of a book

    last days of the summer is absolutely great. I loved it. You'll practically laugh-out-loud, but in the end it'll almost brek your heart. A MUST READ

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2005


    I PICKED IT UP after my classmate did a report on it. I really liked the humor alot of places to laugh. '...Then stuke gave the pitcher the 4 finger sign which in case you don't know means one more time and the bat goes up ur a$$. Then Massi the catcher said Aww pipe down and act ur age. Stuke said Hows ur wife & my kid, 'Fu*% u $hithead'says massi. THen stuke pulled out massi's mask and let it snap back on to his head. tHEN THE BENCHES CLEARED and I got into the fight' I was also sad at the end. I recommend thiss book to everyone who likes baseball or just plain humor. A must read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2005

    Above all other books I have read.

    I read this book in about 4 hours. To say I couldn't put it down doesn't describe the emotional flow and experience to come from the pages of Mr. Kluger's book. I broke down and cried for both Joey and Charlie at the end.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2004


    I loved everything about this's witty, clever, hilarious, touching...etc. Story of a smart, young boy (Joey) in search of a role model (Charlie). He's not afraid to voice his opinions and is clever enough to get people to listen. I laughed out loud on many instances because this book is just that funny. Well written. Mr. Kluger covers every detail and little jokes are found everywhere...This is a must read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2004

    A Yankee's Fan: But I love any kind of baseball at heart!

    I just adored and loved this book. I laughed through the two an half days it took me too read....I did not ever want to put it down. And at the end I was in depserate tears as my heart broke with Joey's. If it weren't for the Rabbi's condolence letter....'even though Charlie was Protestant---we've borken all the rules for him already...' In a poignant touchful ending the letter from Charlie to Joey, it signaled the unfortunant end but meaningful end to a wonderfully short lived friendship which in the future would have only flourished more. I hate sad endings, but I adored this one, for no other ending would have worked as well. I applaud the author and would hope to see more fictional baseball storie's from him, or perhaps even a real life one. For a quick emotionally wonderful read pick up 'Last Days of Summer' ASAP! This is my newest favourite!

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