Redemption can come in myriad forms. In Tim O’Mara’s intriguing debut, one man’s atonement comes in the form of a life-affirming career change — from being an intuitive cop to a concerned teacher.
Raymond Donne left the Brooklyn police force soon after he saved one child while on duty but inadvertently caused the death of a teenager. The incident also left him handicapped. Now he teaches in a Brooklyn school, involved with his students’ lessons in the classroom and in the real world. He’s been known to try to save a student from an abusive home and then heading off to teach the intricate beauty of Walt Whitman’s poetry.
Ray was able to get eighth grader Frankie Rivas a complete scholarship to a private school because of his impressive skills on the baseball diamond. But Frankie’s scholarship also hinges on keeping up his grades, so Ray is a little concerned when the student has been missing from school for more than a week. But this is more than a truant child. Ray discovers the battered body of Frankie’s father; Frankie and his younger sister, Milagros, are missing. Did Frankie snap, finally fed up with this abusive father; or are the brother and sister victims? Ray’s investigation is hampered by an interfering religious leader and the reluctance of Frankie’s family to trust this ex-cop.
O’Mara’s strong characters enhance the sturdy plot of Sacrifice Fly. Ray is a complex character who is conflicted about being drawn back into a police investigation. But because he is no longer a cop, Ray is excluded by the cops from the details of the investigation and has no legal standing as he tries to follow clues that he uncovers. Ray learns that straddling the boundaries of his current occupation and his former career can be uncomfortable. No matter how many times he says “I’m just a schoolteacher,” he knows that is a powerful thing and that being a teacher can change lives. A strong cast of supporting characters adds to the intensity of Sacrifice Fly.
O’Mara’s Sacrifice Fly deserves an A plus.