When the Men Were Gone Cover

When the Men Were Gone

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Genre: Historical / Biographical / Sports Fiction
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: October 2, 2018
Number of Pages: 240
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When the Men Were Gone book cover

A cross between Friday Night Lights and The Atomic City Girls, When The Men Were Gone is a debut historical novel based on the true story of Tylene Wilson, a woman in 1940s Texas who, in spite of extreme opposition, became a female football coach in order to keep her students from heading off to war.

Football is the heartbeat of Brownwood, Texas. Every Friday night for as long as assistant principal Tylene Wilson can remember, the entire town has gathered in the stands, cheering their boys on. Each September brings with it the hope of a good season and a sense of unity and optimism.

Now, the war has changed everything. Most of the Brownwood men over eighteen and under forty-five are off fighting, and in a small town the possibilities are limited. Could this mean a season without football? But no one counted on Tylene, who learned the game at her daddy’s knee. She knows more about it than most men, so she does the unthinkable, convincing the school to let her take on the job of coach.

Faced with extreme opposition by the press, the community, rival coaches, and referees — and even the players themselves — Tylene remains resolute. And when her boys rally around her, she leads the team — and the town — to a Friday night and a subsequent season they will never forget.

Based on a true story, When the Men Were Gone is a powerful and vibrant novel of perseverance and personal courage.

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“Sublimely ties together the drama of high school football, gender politics, and the impact of war on a small town in Texas.”
— Best of Books, 2018, Sports Illustrated
” A beautiful story that stays in your heart long after you finish reading.”
— Jodi Thomas, New York Times bestselling author
“Based on a true story that most people probably don’t know, readers will find plenty to love in Herrera Lewis’ debut.”
— Kirkus Review
Meme Quote: "I allowed myself to reminisce about what led me to that moment, about what my father had taught me: Every road in Texas leads to a football field. You pass by one, and you’d swear you can smell the leather of a well-worn helmet. You sit in the stands alone at dusk, stare at the field, and you can see the footprint of every football player who ever suited up, some so quick they left defenders in their stocking feet. Little kids grow up watching their favorite high school team and go to bed at night dreaming of their turn to play."
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Clueless Gent’s Rating

4 star rating

Of all the World War II home front stories I’ve heard in my lifetime, I found this one to be the most fascinating!

When the Men Were Gone, by Marjorie Herrera Lewis, is a glimpse at life in rural Texas during World War II.  Courage was not restricted to the battlefield, nor was it confined to only men.  This novel – which is based on a true story – tells the tale of a woman who had the courage to fight a deep-set Texas tradition, thereby saving the boys and the game she loved.

I think – unless you actually lived in that time and place – it’s easy to overlook some of the things Americans endured during that war.  For us baby boomers, this story encapsulates a distinct slice of life in the generation immediately preceding ours.  It’s possible that our parents actually confronted some of the same issues Marjorie Herrera Lewis brings to light.

The Stakes of When the Men Were Gone

The entire story is told through the eyes of the protagonist, Tylene Wilson, a Texas high school administrator.  What really drew me into the story was the dilemma she was faced with: if the high school boys could not play football, they would likely drop out, enlist in the military and head overseas to war.  That dilemma was further complicated by the fact that all eligible football coaches were either overseas or already killed in action.  All except for possibly one: our protagonist – a woman.

Through Tylene’s eyes, the author makes us privy to the struggle she has within.  Throughout most of the story, I kept asking myself: is it worth it?  If I were Tylene, would I do what she did?

If you crave a story with conflict, this one is definitely for you!  In addition to her own inner conflict, Tylene must endure a plethora of social conflict, as well as some physical stuff.

I love how the author really brings this one home.  In one scene, for example, Tylene is navigating the sideline while wearing a dress and heels!  The description here is really top notch!  You can absolutely feel what needs to be felt.

Technically Speaking

There were only a few SPAG errors that I noted. Kudos to the editors. The overall pacing of the story was also very good.

I mentioned it before, but it’s worth saying it again.  What really drove this story [for me] was the author’s style of description.  I felt the nostalgia that was 1940s Texas.  All the senses were touched on.  For a debut novel, this was extraordinary!

My only real critical comment is that I did not like the way the author brought the story to a close.  That’s a very personal thing, and I don’t expect people to necessarily agree with me.  However, that was my only reason for taking one star away from this review.

Even if you’re not a history buff or a football fan, if you consider this country your home, and especially if you call yourself a Texan, then this book should be on your must read list!

I received a free copy of this book from Lone Star Book Blog Tours in exchange for my honest review.
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Bookstagram: book set amid candle and flowers on weathered wooden boards
Bookstagram courtesy of Bookish Erin
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Marjorie Herrera Lewis Author Photo

Marjorie Herrera Lewis is an award-winning sportswriter, named the first female Dallas Cowboys beat writer when she was with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She later joined the SportsDay staff of The Dallas Morning News, where she continued to cover the NFL and professional tennis. She is currently a contributing sportswriter for PressBoxDFW.com.
While writing When the Men Were Gone, she became inspired to try her hand at coaching football herself and was added to the Texas Wesleyan University football coaching staff in December 2016. Marjorie has degrees from Arizona State University, The University of Texas in Arlington, Southern New Hampshire University, and certificates from Southern Methodist University, and Cornell University. She is married and has two grown daughters and one son-in-law.
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June 18-28, 2019
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