Monday, October 31, 2011

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

I had read quite a bit about this books journey to publication before I actually read it and I have to be honest and say I was much looking forward to it. It delivered.
Set in Westish College it is the story of a group of young students who are all to a certain degree gifted or in love with the game of baseball. Its axis is Henry who is there due to his good fortune in the baseball field and the desire of the teams coach for a shot at success, Henry who for all his talent and acerbic father can`t imagine the journey he is about to take.This is a book that takes a group of young men from different backgrounds and opens them up to the reader as flesh and blood with all the complexities that young men who are really only starting their life`s journey bring to the page, for all their differences there is a connectedness, a linking, a bonding, a growing of character and a depth that coming of age stories sometimes lack. As these young men traverse the pathways at Westish, they discover that life is really quite a complex thing and that all their parents hard work in preparing them for a life of success can hit a speed bump not necessarily of their own making which can if not negotiated derail a life. With secrets and needs that don`t immediately rise to the surface this book buzzes along and draws you in, there is a freshness to the writing, an empathy with these young men and with those older who guide them while trying with various degrees of success to make sense of their own lives, their are also female characters who tend to bring a shot of adrenaline to the story and to lead it down diverse pathways. I found it particularly interesting how Harbach handled the various characters agendas,hidden or not. There was plenty of grit in this book, plenty of ambition, love, warmth, humour, family(good and bad), I loved the way the characters were etched with such realism, how for whatever flaws existed there was a goodness to their souls, a commitment to their teamates and an abiding love for what made them who they were and an acceptance of differences. I just loved Pella.
This was a wonderful read, it ticked all the boxes, you don`t have to like or be interested in Baseball to enjoy this, you don`t even have to know much, you`ll learn as you go. A big book, it brought a sprinkling of summer into my house as I read it, I could just see the diamond and understand the power it holds as I read. I will be reading this book again down the line, its that kind of book. I have I must confessed watched one game of Baseball in my life..The Denver Nuggets versus the Milwaukee Brewers and I have the pictures to prove it!

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