Author Mike Maloni has delivered a novel that hockey fans will certainly relate to but non-hockey fans can also appreciate and enjoy as well.
The book tells the story of Steve Tomassini, an All-American hockey player at Boston University who is trying to figure out his future both in hockey and beyond. He seems to have a challenging but enviable life with an almost certain future in the NHL, an attractive woman and a challenging plan to start his own business with the help of several of his teammates.
There is one difficulty that Steve didn’t anticipate: his brother Tony has been in and out of mental institutions for several years and is fighting to maintain control of his life. Tony is a fiction writer whose control over his life and illness are often tenuous. As a result, Steve faces off against something more challenging than anything he’s dealt with on the ice when he tries to help his brother keep his life together.
The book works so well because Maloni’s characters are real and likeable. Hockey players and fans will immediately identify with the way Steve relates to his teammates and faces the challenges presented to him throughout the book. The ups and downs of his relationship with his girlfriend Susan also ring true as do the landmarks in and around Boston and the various landmarks that surround the schools there.
But the place the book hits closest to home is the relationship between Steve and his brother Tony and how the family deals with Tony’s struggles with his mental illness.
This is a subject that Maloni knows well as he himself has struggled and overcome mental illness. By telling the story from the point of view of the brother, he invites people unfamiliar with this world to understand it and to accept it without as much fear.
“I didn’t want to make this the illness of the month,” Maloni explained. “But I did want people to understand that there were still people out there with mental illness and that there were positive outcomes with treatment. I hoped to have people realize that because of advances in treatment and with society’s changing view of mental illness, there’s a much better view out there for people with mental illness.”
He managed to do this while keeping the book interesting and engaging throughout. Hockey fans will enjoy “Defenseman”.