Saturday, July 16, 2011

Strike Heaven On the Face

By Charles Calitri

Book Review

By Richard Edward Noble

It is claimed that the setting of this book is Merrimack Valley in Massachusetts – specifically the Methuen and Lawrence areas. There are enough tiny references in the work to confirm that suspicion. That is the reason I picked it up. I’m from Lawrence.

But the book is not about the area. It is generic. It could have happened anywhere in America.

It is a school teacher’s story. It is idealistic and at the same time very earthy and real. The characters are real people. The plot is believable and even exciting. There is no doubt in the reader’s mind that the author of this work is an intelligent human being.

Mr. Calitri was a school teacher and then a college professor. One of his students was Frank McCourt of Angela’s Ashes fame.

This book made Mr. Calitri wealthy. He sold the movie rights to Strike Heaven in the Face for a quarter of a million dollars – in 1950 dollars. It was sensationalized and Mr. Calitri said that he laughed all the way to the bank. But as a consequence of this success he was able to pursue another work which he felt to be of a much greater significance, Father.Mr. Calitri’s dad, it seems, was also a Catholic priest. His father had a great influence on Mr. Calitri’s life. I imagine the book “Father” will also be an interesting read.

In Strike Heaven on the Face we are introduced to a typical 50’s type school system in a strongly religious community. We have the young rebellious teacher and the practical minded principal and in between we have our hero. The book is loaded with characters that everyone will recognize. They are you and your neighbors. They are your daughters and your sons. They are everyday people from anywhere U.S.A.

A “gang” or more accurately a club evolves among the students. The activities of the students of this club become known and shock the community. And thus the intrigue begins.

This is an old book and is no longer in print but it is claimed to have sold over a million copies so with some hunting a person should be able to find a copy if they are interested. It is a good story, a story that continues in one form or another to this very day. It is intelligent and thoughtful and it is very well written. I enjoyed it and have no fear in giving it a positive recommendation.

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