Sandman (2022). David W. Berner

Full of humour and vivid natural scenes, colourful characters and introspective passages, Sandman is many things: a coming-of-age tale, a mystery, and a meditation on golf as a metaphor for life.

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David W. Berner’s novella Sandman (2022) is ostensibly about golf. And there’s plenty of golf-related detail: descriptions of foulmouthed greenskeepers and stern caddie-masters, numbers-obsessed amateur players and pushy parents hovering on the sidelines. But like all good stories, Sandman is two stories in one: a story about golf and a story where golf becomes a metaphor for life.

To a greater degree than many other sports, golf is played both recreationally and competitively; golf is also more elitist than most other sports. These two dichotomies structure the trajectories of the two protagonists. Jimmy and a young unnamed American boy, growing up decades apart, face the same basic question: Do they want to win (or suck up to winners), or do they want to enjoy the game? The novella’s episodes are cleverly arranged so that, though these two protagonists never meet, the wisdom one acquired in a faraway land passes on to the other.

Sandman is structured as a double mystery. There’s the mystery of what happened to Jimmy the Old Elm vagrant on the day in the present which furnishes the novella’s frame story; there’s also the mystery of how Jimmy ended up in this life: a semicrazed homeless man living on charity. Travelling fluidly between past and present, between a focus on Jimmy and a focus on the unnamed boy, the narrative suggests that the answer to both mysteries is the same. As Sandman closes, Jimmy is discovered exactly where he meant to end up.

Full of colourful characters, from insufferable amateur players to snitchy caddies, and vivid descriptions of the sights and sounds of various golf-courses, Sandman is a book you’ll read quickly but remember long afterwards.


Thank you to the writer for an ARC. An interview is forthcoming.

Buy the book on Amazon in paperback, Kindle, or audiobook edition.

By Amita Basu

I'm a writer based in Bangalore, India.

5 replies on “Sandman (2022). David W. Berner”

Golf is one game where the opponent and you use different ball, other ball games they compete with the same ball. The game is a combination of physical fitness and mental stability. In the game, the putting of the ball depends on many unpredictable factors like wind, time of grass trimming, moisture variation in different parts of the course. The course itself is vast, comprising of water bodies, sand, trees, different slopes, textures of grass. All of which is not fully understood by the viewer on television. When the person is on the field and plays the game, they get to experience all of these unique trails of the calming game. Come let’s play golf ⛳


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