In most novels, there’s a discernible crescendo — a building of the plot — Â to a big resolution. That is not the case in “A Crooked Number” by Nathan Jorgenson of Minneapolis. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t good.
“A Crooked Number”Â is about Grant Thorson, a boy who grows up on a farm outside Halstad, Minn., goes on to a successful career as a dentist and an equally satisfying hobby of playing “town ball” — baseball playedÂ by a bunch of men who can’t give up the game.
The novel runs the gamut of emotions: from the desperate sadness of losing a baby to the joy of falling in love, from the utter fear of giving an injection to the bravery of the solitary pitcher on the baseball mound.
What I love about the author is his eye for detail and his ability to describe a scene with just a few words. He also has a flair for telling a funny story; his characters could be crowned Kings of the Witty Comeback.
And just when you think your blood sugar can’t take anymore sweetness, the story takes a serious turn. Grant learns how the grading system at dental school works, and describes some really despicable teachers. On the other hand, he also meets some lifelong friends and his future wife at dental school.
AÂ few readers might have to skim some of the pages, butÂ most readersÂ will be just as interested in how dentists are trained. Jorgenson doesn’t talk down to us; he uses the proper dental terminology and describes the work, some of it done in a cadaver lab.
But don’t worry. The other half of the book is about Grant’s love of baseball. On the field, he encounters some stinkers, some lifelong friends, and some comic characters. And just as there are bad teachers in college, there are bad coaches in baseball.
Grant knows the game better than most. He grew up listening to the games on the radio, and went on to play for the University of Minnesota Gophers. He also reveals that he had received a letter from his beloved Minnesota Twins, telling him that they were watching his development as a player.
The novelÂ isn’t all dugout anecdotes and bathroom humor. One highlight of the novel is the love between Grant and his wife Kate. Each one marvels at their luck at finding someoneÂ so wonderful.Â They hit a few bumps along the way, but their relationship remains solid.Â
Not until the final chapters does the reader find out what a crooked number is. And even then, I’m not quite sure what Jorgenson means.