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ForeWord.com Critique of Dobie’s River
(Rated 4 out of 5 stars)
Human value is truly measured in the gifts one bestows on others; be it love, consideration, or wisdom. The late Coach Thomas Dobie Holden’s worth is painfully and lovingly recalled in the memoir, Dobie’s River.
The early college years of Pearl River Junior College football players is retold in this coming of age story set in Poplarville, a small town in southern Mississippi. Jeb Jackson is a 130 pound, five foot six inch high school dropout who has decided his educational and vocational future hinges on scoring a football scholarship at PRC. After several failed phone calls to Coach Holden, Jeb shows up at the coach’s office to plead his case. Unfortunately, Jeb’s bravado is met with more rejection. With a little help from his brother and another display of courage and passion to play, Jeb not only gets the opportunity to tryout, but becomes a part of the PRC Wildcats.
During his three years at the school, Jeb befriends some of the top players on the team, including Tim Mallory and Jack Hebert. The boys share many experiences including sexual escapades with several girls from and around the campus, two shootings, a barrage of injuries on the field, dorm room pranks, heartbreak and the unyielding wrath of Coach Holden. Holden was famous in his region and beyond for his thorough knowledge of football, his skill at developing plays that would confuse and disable competitors, and his strategic use of psychology to mold and master his young players. What the coach gave his charges in great abundance was wisdom the young men carried into adulthood: “…you must be flexible and ready to adapt to changes or you may never realize your full potential.
Gatwood played under Coach Holden from 1958 to 1960 as a quarterback and received his associate’s degree from Pearl River Junior College. The author’s creative nonfiction style of writing centers on dialogue that moves the story forward and endears the reader to the characters. Although the action is occasionally stymied by a look into the backgrounds of supporting players, Gatwood’s skill in describing plays on the football field pulls the reader back into the story. The author has a habit of repeatedly providing the phonetic spelling of every Cajun character in the book: “Alphonse Le’Fontenot (Lay-fun-to-know)”; however, it is his dedication to detail that makes this book perfect for an audience looking to re-live the struggles and successes of early adulthood.
Dobie’s River is an entertaining look into the youthful days of insecure, talented college boys who were influenced by a fiery, brilliant coach through their development into adulthood. The author’s effort is reflective of one of Coach Holden’s sage sayings: '…the real secret to success in this business, or any other endeavor you might undertake, is finding out what people do best and lettin’ ‘em do it."
---End of ForeWord.com Critique---
Dobie's River is full of action and youthful never-say-die drives to achieve and succeed. Though the setting is centered about the legendary coach and football, a reader does not have to be a football buff or understand the game to enjoy the book. Why? Because it is written about people, not about the intricacies of football.