The Mighty Oak
Tim O'Connor is paid to be violent. He plays for the El Paso Storm in the West Texas Hockey League. People call him Oak. He's been an enforcer for longer than his hip or shoulder or back have been able to hold together. He is a broken machine of gristle and rage. And he has been away from home for too long.
He's called back to Boston by his mother's death. There he confronts a life he failed to live, a daughter he doesn't know, and a body that is quickly breaking down. Still, he can't conceive of a future without hockey, even as he chews oxycodone and Adderall to numb his injuries and steady his brain. When a brutal encounter with the police places him in the path of Joan Linney, a haunted public defender, and Kip, a boy with a brave face, Oak and his chance companions roam cold streets from Castle Island to Quincy Point, struggling to believe in a different future.
In spare, potent language, Jeff W. Bens builds a remarkable character from the skates up. The Mighty Oak is a visceral and emotional experience. The fact of Oak's physical existence is powerfully rendered, and the bone-deep transformation of his character is one you will not soon forget.
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About the Author
Jeff W. Bens is the author of the novel Albert, Himself. He teaches at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York.
"An incisive and incandescent portrait of an American male struggling with anger, delusions, and Oxycontin. Calling to mind the work of Richard Ford and Denis Johnson, The Mighty Oak hits the reader like a hockey stick to the face."-- "David Burr Gerrard, author of The Epiphany Machine"
"A knock-out! Jeff Bens tackles male violence, the complexities of parenthood, and the contrary draw to both numbness and connection in wholly alive and thrilling ways."-- "Lisa Muskat, producer of Joe and All the Real Girls"
"A perfectly pitched hat trick of a book: a great sports novel, a tragedy of our opioid times, and the story of a man rediscovering what love is left in his heart. I loved every page."-- "Scott Cheshire, author of High as the Horses' Bridles"
"The Mighty Oak is a tense, spare, powerful novel. Bens has a finely calibrated voice that explodes off the page in a way that will remind readers of the very best of Raymond Carver or Richard Ford. Like Oak himself, this novel is heartfelt, headstrong, and unflinching."-- "Kristopher Jansma, author of Why We Came to the City"
"The Mighty Oak introduces us to a character reminiscent of the great literary antiheroes. Written by Jeff W. Bens with an insight that balances the culturally astute and the brilliantly ambiguous with detours of unexpected humor, this is a portrait of an athlete's multifaceted interior code: a hockey player, a brother, a father, a fighter, a lover, a friend. We lean in for a better understanding and discover a brilliant analysis of extraordinary talent and the vulnerabilities that often bleed from it."-- "David Gordon Green, director, Halloween, Stronger, East Bound and Down, Pineapple Express"