Paul D. Carter

Eleven Seasons

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Eleven Seasons Summary

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Eleven Seasons (2012), a contemporary novel by Paul D. Carter, centers on an ex-football player who decides to get his life back on track after dropping out of high school. Receiving widespread critical praise upon publication, the book won the Vogel’s Literary Award in 2012. Carter is a writer, historian, and high school English teacher. He enjoys exploring the role that sport plays in shaping Australian history, and he is especially passionate about the AFL. Carter’s debut novel, Eleven Seasons is suitable for adults and teenagers.

Eleven Seasons takes place in Melbourne and Australia’s Gold Coast. The narrative jumps between 1985 and 1991. In 1985, when the novel begins, Jason Dalton is still in high school. He doesn’t have an easy home life. His father isn’t around, and his mother, Christine, a nurse, works long hours at the local hospital. They have no money because Christine saves everything that she earns to buy them a better home in a safer area one day.

All Jason has in his life is football. An extremely talented player, he plans to play professional football once he graduates from high school. Without sport, Jason has nothing. His whole identity is wrapped up in the game, and without it, he will fall apart. Christine wishes he would stop obsessing over football and focus on his studies, but he doesn’t listen to her. He is convinced that she doesn’t understand his passion and that she doesn’t care about his happiness.

Jason’s biggest problem is that he doesn’t have a male role model. He isn’t comfortable talking to Christine about school or girls, because he assumes that she won’t understand. He thinks that girls at school have it much easier than boys. Boys always notice girls, but the girls don’t notice the boys unless they stand out. Sport, then, is Jason’s only shot at standing out and finding a girlfriend.

Christine worries that football is violent and unpredictable. Reading the newspaper headlines about football players behaving badly off the field, she doesn’t want Jason mixed up in that lifestyle. Jason thinks she is worrying over nothing; he is convinced that playing professional football is his only option.

As Jason gets older, he develops anger issues. He lashes out and starts fights at school. Christine suspects that his anger comes from never knowing his father, but he refuses to talk to her about it. His football obsession borders on unhealthy, and his schoolwork deteriorates. Christine has no idea how to get through to Jason, and she worries that it is only a matter of time before he goes off the rails completely.

Jason has girlfriends at school, but he doesn’t treat them well. The other boys on the football team treat girls as sex objects, and they encourage Jason to do the same. Christine decides to tell Jason the truth about his father. She feels this is the only way to curb his obsession with football and his toxic attitude towards women. The trouble is, she knows that by revealing his father’s identity, she could lose Jason forever.

Christine finally tells Jason that his father is a footballer. A high school hotshot, he thought he could have any girl he wanted. He and his two teammates raped Christine and humiliated her. Jason can’t deal with the truth about his father; he blames Christine for what happened. He pushes her away and drops out of high school.

The narrative jumps to the Gold Coast in 1991. Jason is an unemployed ex-footballer with no direction or prospects for the future. He visits prostitutes and drinks heavily, angry at the world. Befriending one of the prostitutes, she encourages him to go looking for his father. Maybe if he meets his father and tells him how he feels, he will let go of his anger and move on with his life.

Jason decides to take her advice, but in the meantime, there is trouble at home. He has a new roommate whom he can’t stand, and he realizes that he’s better off living alone. Hitting rock bottom financially, he decides that it is time to get his life back together. Although he didn’t finish high school, there is still a chance he can play professional football, or at least coach a football team, if he cleans up his act.

Jason decides to take in his hapless roommate’s dog, Dundee. An angry, antisocial, neglected dog, with Jason’s help, he becomes a loving, compassionate pet. Just as Dundee evolves, so too does Jason, who is now a caring, reliable adult. Dundee is his closest companion, and he will do anything to protect him.

Jason finally tracks his father down. He was in a car accident a few years ago, and he can’t look after himself anymore. Meeting his father gives Jason the closure he needs to move forward with his life. He returns to his old high school and begins coaching high school football.