Joey, a twelve year old Jewish boy is beaten up for (falsely) claiming to be the friend of famous baseball player Charles Banks, so in attempt to prove his case he writes a pleading letter to the baseball player, and not just one. What follows is a correspondence in which Joey adds lie upon lie, and in which Charles repeatedly tells him where to get off. But gradually the tone of the communications changes, and what develops is a close and charming relationship.
The story is told entirely through the letters between Joey and Charles, along with other letters from Joey's best friend and a others, transcripts of interviews between Joey and his doctor, and clips from newspapers and other printed ephemera.
I put off reading this book for some time for the page presentation is a bit brash, and I must admit when I did start reading it I found it a little dispassionate, but not for long. Very soon one warms to Joey, a loud-mouth? possibly; precocious? definitely; resourceful and inventive? most certainly; but behind it all is a heart of gold. This is born out by the effect he has on the young baseball player, gradually bringing his otherwise hidden good heartedness and turning Charles into the father Joey lacked, and a true hero.
The Last Days of Summer is a remarkable book, sentimental and moving, extremely funny and yet heartbreaking, once I got going with I could not put it down and read it in just one sitting. A most original book, and one of the funniest I have read in a long time.