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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
Sins of the Tribe by Mark A. Salter is a sports novel that revolves around two brothers, Wally and Henry, and the almost religious deference to one of America's most beloved pastimes: football. It is one of the sport's worst-kept secrets that college football players are exploited; each player is set as a cog in a massive money-making machine with a wildly enthusiastic and deeply committed following. The tribe, so to speak. Wally and Henry are permitted entrance into the hallowed grounds of the Bastille University Tribe as a result of Henry's phenomenal kicking skill. As the boys settle into their roles at Bastille and the reality of what it means to be a member of the Tribe, a history of abuse and the extreme shifts between reverence and rancor rear their ugly heads as Henry and Wally are swept up in it.
As a college athlete in a Division One school that played at an international level, I know all too well how much hinges on winning, and what a player stands to lose, which is more substantial than anyone outside of the realm could ever possibly understand. Sins of the Tribe is a profoundly honest fictional look from the inside out and I wonder what may have transpired in author Mark A. Salter's own life to inspire such an introspective novel. Two characters stand out and, interestingly enough, neither are Wally and Henry. A journalist named Samantha and a mentor/professor are so well crafted that the potential for a spin-off is right there under the bright stadium lights. I appreciated the attention to detail and the sensitivity toward Henry's suspected place on the spectrum are both present without either becoming overbearing or overly relied on. The novel takes a few chapters to really get into but is a marvelous human interest story once it hits its stride. Overall, this is an excellent read for sports fans, readers with an interest in psychology, and anyone with even a passing curiosity about the blunt force impact of fanaticism. Recommended.