Friday, February 22, 2013

Book Review: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

At Westish College, a small school on the shore of Lake Michigan, baseball star Henry Skrimshander seems destined for big league stardom. But when a routine throw goes disastrously off course, the fates of five people are upended.

Henry’s fight against self-doubt threatens to ruin his future. College president Guert Affenlight, a longtime bachelor, has fallen unexpectedly and helplessly in love. Owen Dunne, Henry’s gay roommate and teammate, becomes caught up in a dangerous affair. Mike Schwartz, the Harpooners’ team captain and Henry’ best friend, realizes he has guided Henry’s career at the expense of his own. And Pella Affenlight, Guert’s daughter, returns to Westish after escaping an ill-fated marriage, determined to start a new life.

As the season counts down to its climactic final game, these five are forced to confront their deepest hopes, anxieties, and secrets. In the process they forge new bonds, and help one another find their true paths. Written with boundless intelligence and filled with the tenderness of youth, The Art of Fielding is an expansive, warmhearted novel about ambition and its limits, about family and friendship and love, and about commitment—to oneself and to others.

*Summary from Goodreads

When I first started this book I thought it was going to be strictly about baseball. Some of you are probably thinking that sounds crazy with all the people that have been talking about it and reviewing it but when I know I want to read a book I make sure I don't listen to what people are saying about the book so I am surprised by it when I read it. I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Now, on with the review.

Plot: The plot of this book was fantastic. I'm a sports nut. I love reading about sports, writing about sports, and playing sports. So, I loved the baseball aspect of this book, especially that the Cardinals were worked into the plot. Being born and raised in St. Louis, I'm a total homer for the Cardinals. So bonus points to Chad for that. 

The non-sports aspect of the plot was one of the best crafted plots I've read in a very, very long time. Chad does a fantastic job of weaving the stories of all the characters together. I'm not an author, but I would think that it's got to be incredibly difficult to wind some many complex stories together. Chad Harbach has crafted a gem in "The Art of Fielding". He has managed to intertwine baseball, failed relationships, new beginnings, college life, adult life, and many other things into a masterful story about baseball and growing in life. 

Characters: The characters in this book are fantastic. There is a depth and relate-ability to these characters that is hard to find in many books today. There is a character in this book that relates to everyone that reads it. I think this is the case because the characters are dealing with real world situations that are easily related to by anyone. Sometimes in the realm of fiction, the author struggles to make the character realistic enough to relate to. That's not the case in this book. This may be my favorite set of characters since I started reviewing books on this blog. 

Readership: This is one of those rare books the transcends a specific genre. Yes, it's fiction and it has sports in it, but it's also got so many more things that I don't want to post on here because it would ruin the plot for potential readers. I think this book would appeal to sports fans, fiction fans, romance fans, suspense fans, etc...Basically I'm saying that I think anyone can read this book and find joy in it. This is a book for all people that love reading. 

Overall Score: 5/5 One of the best books I've ever read.

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