When I received this book to review, I knew exactly which reviewer it should go to. BFF Steph has been to more baseball games than any woman so here’s Steph:
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach is possibly one of the best books I have read in a long time. It is incredible to believe that this is Harbach’s debut novel – but it is and it is fabulous. It premise is simple – a college baseball game with an overthrow at first that goes into the dugout creating a chain of events that even the most seasoned reader would not have anticipated. There is an injury, a secret love affair, a “spiritual crisis” (baseball speak for a slump), a rag tag chase for a national title in Division III college baseball, and a tremendous growth in all of the characters that is deeply satisfying. While this is a novel about college baseball, it is also a novel about a Midwestern college and college life – both on the administration side and student life.
Henry is the main character and fittingly a shortstop, but an EXTRAORDINARY shortstop. A lifelong student of the shortstop position, he has mastered the position – to the point of being scouted by the big leagues. Then he has one errant throw, and he sinks into a deep and dark funk that is so painful that, while frustrating, also breaks your heart. His mentor and teammate is Mike Schwartz, a big lumbering fellow catcher who is applying to law schools and falling in love with Pella, the dean’s daughter who has run away from a controlling and loveless marriage to come back to home to the dean. And the dean is Dean Affenlight, an unlikely baseball fan who finds love in the most unusual of circumstances – a true romance which you can actually feel growing. And finally there Owen Dunne, Henry’s teammate and roommate, who is gay and a nerd – but a great gay nerd. In some form or fashion, all of the characters go through a crisis of confidence – some large, some small. But when all is said and done, you are deeply satisfied with how all survive and thrive.
While on its face this is a sports novel, it is so much more. This is a must read for 2011!
Hachette Book Group provided a review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
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